Ethical Research in Informal Learning Environments

VSA believes that visitor research and evaluation should be conducted in an ethical manner. A VSA task force is exploring regulations and guidelines surrounding the ethical conduct of research in informal learning environments. This task force is especially interested in understanding the role of Institutional Review Boards in the conduct of research studies, and in helping VSA members navigate the IRB certification process.

Standards for the conduct of ethical research are available at:

AAMHere is a set of guidelines set by the Committee on Audience Research & Evaluation (part of AAM).

An Institutional Review Board is a panel that is set up to ensure that studies proposed are ethical in design, and that follow federal assurances of quality and privacy.

Many funding agencies now require that studies be IRB approved.

Web-based human subjects research training modules can be found on several sites.


Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI) developed a widely used web based training program in human research subjects protections, provided for university and healthcare institutions.

US Dept. of Health and Human Services provides an online training module for researchers (look for online training). You do not need to register, and can browse through the information.


The University of Montana offers free online training which does not require registration. Sections one, two and 6 are recommended for certification in social science research. A true and false questionnaire follows and shows percent correct, and you can print out a certificate.

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