Guiding Ethical Principals

When reviewing research, Institutional Review Board (IRB) members are guided by three ethical principles that are fundamental to human participant protection: respect for persons, beneficence, and justice.

  • Respect for Persons
    Addresses the personal dignity and autonomy of individuals, and the importance of proper informed consent for individuals participating in research.
  • Beneficence
    Addresses the obligation to protect human participants from harm by assessing the risks and benefits of the research and assuring that the anticipated benefits are greater than the anticipated risks.
  • Justice
    Requires that research subjects are fairly selected with regard to the purpose and expected outcome of the research, including consideration of the participant as an individual and as a member of society. Research participants in studies should be similar to those who may benefit from the outcome of that research.

These ethical principles are discussed in the Belmont Report and form the basis for the regulatory standards for human subject protection in the United States. The U.S. federal regulations are found in 45 CFR 46 Protection of Human Subjects. In addition, these principles are also incorporated in international guidance for ethical and scientific quality standards.