According to a recent report from the Pew Research Center on social media usage in the United States, 65 percent of all adults and 76 percent of adult Internet users spend time online on at least one social networking site. That’s nearly a tenfold increase in the last decade. Given the vast public use of social media, it should come as no surprise that clinical researchers have come to view Facebook, Twitter and other social media as treasure troves of minable information and data. Amid the allure, there are risks involved, some perceived while others not, that can lead unprepared investigators to peril. Thus, these waters must be navigated with great care.Despite the prevalence of social media usage, clinical investigators and institutional review boards (IRBs) have provided little, if any, concrete guidance on the ethical use of social media and the Internet as research tools. The Code of Federal Regulations, which covers human subjects research, doesn’t provide specific information concerning social media research; however, the issue has not gone unnoticed. An advisory committee to the U.S. Office for Human Research Protection provided some guidance, noting that the “ethical conduct of Internet research brings questions of scientific design into high relief… Read full this story
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