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J Med Ethics 39:115-118 doi:10.1136/medethics-2012-100798
  • Research ethics

Internet-based crowdsourcing and research ethics: the case for IRB review

  1. Abraham Graber3
  1. 1Department of Emergency Medicine, University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, Iowa City, Iowa, USA
  2. 2Department of Family Medicine, University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, Iowa City, Iowa, USA
  3. 3Department of Philosophy, University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Mark A Graber, Department of Emergency Medicine, University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, 200 Hawkins Drive, 1008 RCP, Iowa City, Iowa 52242, USA; mark-graber{at}uiowa.edu
  • Received 17 May 2012
  • Revised 8 September 2012
  • Accepted 12 September 2012
  • Published Online First 30 November 2012

Abstract

The recent success of Foldit in determining the structure of the Mason-Pfizer monkey virus (M-PMV) retroviral protease is suggestive of the power-solving potential of internet-facilitated game-like crowdsourcing. This research model is highly novel, however, and thus, deserves careful consideration of potential ethical issues. In this paper, we will demonstrate that the crowdsourcing model of research has the potential to cause harm to participants, manipulates the participant into continued participation, and uses participants as experimental subjects. We conclude that protocols relying on this model require institutional review board (IRB) scrutiny.