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Doody's Review ServiceReviewer: Robert A. Crouch(University of Virginia)
Description: Handbooks can serve a number of purposes, and this one is no exception. Addressed primarily to medical researchers and to members of Institutional Review Boards (or Research Ethics Committees), the author discusses not only substantive ethical issues that occur in the context of research (such as confidentiality and research with children and fetuses), but also helpfully lays out many of the more basic issues that are involved in research (the function and composition of review boards, and the evaluation of risks and benefits in a study protocol, to name only two).
Purpose: His task for much of the book is to review various national and international research guidelines and to explain what they ethically require of the researcher. By providing this information in manageable handbook format, the author has done the research community a great service. Those who consult his handbook should be able to identify and avoid many of the common problems that are encountered during protocol review.
Audience: This book can serve both to educate researchers and thus to streamline the protocol review process by producing more ethically acceptable research protocols from the start.
Features: The handbook format is at once the book's best and worst feature: what the author provides for the reader in breadth is purchased by a lack of depth.
Assessment: Consulting the book will inform readers of the ethical issues researchers should be aware of, but insights into the ethical reasoning that led to the endorsement of any guideline's requirement are rarely presented. Such a deficiency is problematic because it will leave many in the dark when either extant guidelines change, or novel protocols are submitted (and the ethical implications of these are not obviously dealt with by the author. This is not so much a criticism of this fine book as it is a general criticism of handbooks, but it is nonetheless something the reader should keep in mind.