Murray, J., & Fairfield, J. A. T. (2014, 23-24 May). Global ethics and virtual worlds: Ensuring functional integrity in transnational research studies. Paper presented at the IEEE International Symposium on Ethics in Science, Technology and Engineering, Chicago, IL.
For more than three decades, research ethics in the biomedical and behavioral sciences, in the U.S. and beyond, has been guided by policies and standards derived from the Belmont Report. Although they have been adapted and revised over time, the underlying guidelines have limited applicability to the challenges of today’s research environment, especially because of the influence of modern communications and information technologies and their ubiquitous presence across varied, and often incompatible, legal regimes and social norms. This paper examines a number of issues in this research context, with particular stress on the challenges posed by transnational experimental projects in virtual worlds and social networks. Several key aspects of the Menlo Report – a 2011 update to the Belmont Report – are also discussed. Consideration is given to a more rational and coordinated approach to managing ethics observance in multiple jurisdictions, with special attention on guidelines for the conduct of transnational research in and on virtual environments and online social network systems.