Ethics Training

The University of Texas at Austin is committed to the highest standards of ethics and compliance with applicable laws, policies and regulations. Ethical conduct and compliance are personal responsibilities, and each person should be accountable for his and her conduct and decision-making. All graduate students should contact their advisor or supervisor to review requirements for training and approvals that must be completed based on their research or their employment at the university.

Research with Human Subjects

Human subjects research requires a systematic investigation designed to develop or contribute to generalizable knowledge. It involves collecting information about living individuals through intervention or interaction with them as well as from individually identifiable information. Examples include interviews, surveys, observations, use of previously collected data that includes identifiable information, and the collection of private information about a person that was not originally intended to be made public (e.g. medical or school records).

The university has an Institutional Review Board (IRB) responsible for conducting initial and continuing reviews and providing oversight for all research activities involving the use of human subjects performed on campus or at any location under the purview of the university. All research projects involving human participants conducted by faculty, staff or students associated with the university must receive IRB approval prior to initiating the research. The IRB typically approves projects for one year and thereafter conducts annual reviews.

More Information about Human Research and the IRB

The IRB provides detailed information about the IRB human subject research application and review process required by the university. Failure to obtain the appropriate IRB approval when conducting research with human subjects may result in the invalidation of your research data which may delay or, in some cases, prevent your graduation.

Illustrating IRB Approval

For thesis and dissertation research involving human subjects, graduate students may illustrate Institutional Review Board (IRB) ethical approval by providing an IRB approval letter with the student’s name listed as a principal investigator.

If the student was involved in human subject research but his or her name is not listed as principal investigator, they must provide a letter confirming the their involvement in the research written by the faculty member listed as principal, along with the IRB approval letter obtained by the faculty member.

If the student was granted IRB approval prior to the implementation of the Office of Research Support’s submission system, IRBaccess, they must submit the Application for Exemption form signed by the Departmental Review Committee (DRC) chairperson’s signature.

Animal Research

As a student researcher, you may be called upon to study animals in a laboratory setting. It is important to understand your ethical responsibility as a member of the university and as a professional.

Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC)

The ethical treatment of animals is critical to effective and responsible science. The Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) oversees the application process, decides mandatory training for those working with animals, inspects facilities and reviews animal research programs at the university.

Mandatory Training

The use of animals in research, testing and teaching is subject to a multitude of laws, policies, regulations and standards. Any person who will handle, manipulate or perform procedures on live vertebrate animals (whether in the laboratory or in the field) must complete mandatory training.

Animal Resources Center (ARC)

The Animal Resources Center (ARC) is responsible for all animal laboratory investigations and their associated husbandry and veterinary needs. It has established a comprehensive program to ensure the ethical treatment of animals involved in research and exists to provide guidelines for the ethical treatment of animals in research. Principal investigators and their assistants must be familiar with the policies of the ARC as well as any standards set by professional and academic organizations. Before beginning research studies, you are required to attend on-campus training supplemented by professional guidebooks and online materials.

Academic Integrity

In addition to the guidelines of academic integrity offered by the university, there are those imposed by your chosen profession.

A professional scientific society, for example, would have specific guidelines that discourage violations such as data fabrication. Creating data to suit the intended results of a study violates the academic integrity of a society of researchers and being associated with a project that used unethical practices may affect your reputation as a professional.