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Morris, M. C., & Morris, J. Z. (2016). The importance of virtue ethics in the IRB. Research Ethics, 12(4), 201–216. https://doi.org/10.1177/1747016116656023


Institutional review boards have a dual goal: first, to protect the rights and welfare of human research subjects, and second, to support and facilitate the conduct of valuable research. In striving to achieve these goals, IRBs must often consider conflicting interests. In the discussion below, we characterize research oversight as having three elements: (i) research regulations, which establish a minimum acceptable standard for research conduct; (ii) ethical principles, which help us identify and define relevant ethical issues; and (iii) virtue ethics, which guides the prioritization of relevant issues. We describe specific ways in which the lessons of virtue ethics suggest revisions to the IRB structure and review process, the education and training of IRB members, and the appropriate limits of regulations in research ethics oversight.