Miller helping set ethical guidelines for Internet research
Dr. Montana Miller
Dr. Montana Miller is at the forefront of not only a new field of study, but also the process of setting the guidelines for its research.
With the growth of online social networking, gaming, gambling, virtual worlds and the myriad other new activities in which people can engage, Internet research is growing among social scientists-which in turn creates an area of concern for institutional review boards (IRBs) at universities and funding agencies.
What are the ethics of Internet research? "The rules have not been written yet, and there could be a number of ethical dilemmas," said Miller, popular culture.
Miller's expertise in Internet research ethics, an emerging field with crucial implications for IRBs across the country and internationally, led to her invitation to join the prestigious faculty of the national Public Responsibility in Medicine and Research (PRIM&R).
At the group's Advancing Ethical Research Conference, held last month in Nashville, she spoke on the featured panel titled "Bytes, Bots, and Avatars: Social/Behavioral Research and Technology," to an audience of about 1,000, in addition to leading two related sessions.
Miller had attended this conference for the past three years, representing BGSU's Human Subjects Review Board, and was adamant that attention was needed to "research done in virtual worlds, on social networking sites and other forms of communication and behavior online," she said. "I formally proposed this session on Internet research ethics last year.
"It's a huge honor to have this opportunity to educate IRB members around the country about the issues that are so new and confusing to many," she said. "Research done with people on the Internet is still research with human subjects, and it needs to be reviewed by ethics boards-but the context and the ethical dilemmas, including diverse and ambiguous perceptions of 'privacy,' are new to many IRB members. The rules and guidelines are only just being written, and it's a privilege to have a voice in that process."
As a result of her talks at the PRIM&R conference, Miller has been invited to deliver the keynote address for the Online Teaching and Learning division at the American Educational Research Association's annual conference next spring.
Miller, who has served on BGSU's Human Subjects Review Board since 2006, is also a member of the BGSU Faculty Learning Community on Second Life Teaching and Research, and chair of the Internet Culture area of the Popular Culture Association.
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