Experimental Participants Demand Fewer Rights, Insist on Being Called ‘Subjects’
In today’s changing world of experimental psychology, people who participate in research studies are provided with a bounty of privileges. They enjoy the benefits of knowing the details of each experiment before they get involved, and they even receive payment or credit for classes in exchange for their participation. However, if a subset of experimental participants has their way, all of this might be about to change.
“It’s only fair that these researchers respect us enough to treat us as we are,” says Oliver Shortfather, undergraduate chemistry student at Boatwright University and founder of the Society for Appropriate Protection of Subjects (SAPS). “We want to be subjected to experiments, not participate in them; we are treated too ethically.”
The extended experimental consenting procedures, payment at or above the current minimum wage, and the lack of physical effort required to make recognition memory judgments have this group of individuals readying for action.
Samuels College freshman Amy Waldhaus is one such individual. “We’ve recently started a Facebook group demanding to be referred to as ‘subjects’ and not ‘participants,’ and it has over 1,800 members,” she told the Student Notebook in an exclusive interview. “We think it’s going to make a big difference.”
Referring to the “golden days” of psychology, Waldhaus continued, “We miss the romance and excitement of never knowing what’s coming next in a psychology experiment. Will we be pricked by a needle? Given a grasshopper to eat? Contract a disease? I’m tired of surveys.”
When contacted for comment, a prestigious researcher who preferred to remain anonymous replied, “It’s never going to happen. We truly value the individual contributions of every experimental participant that passes through the doors to our lab. They’re names and not numbers, and that’s why they’ll never be ‘subjects’ to us.”
Peer Review Ends in 2014 Board of Psychologists Announces New Changes
Big things are on the horizon for psychological science. This past January, a board of 50 psychologists from around the world met to discuss the future of peer review, a process that has been integral to psychology for decades. After a week of deliberating on this essential and complicated topic, the researchers unanimously decided that it’s time for this age-old ritual to end.
“It just doesn’t make sense to any of us anymore,” reported Clark Ferguson, a Distinguished University Professor. “We’re going to take the lead of crowd-sourced news and review sites like Digg, Yelp, Facebook, and others to totally revamp and revitalize the way we vote on and publish research.”
In this new system, all researchers can vote for articles they believe are worthy of publication. “Psychology majors get one vote, graduate students get two, and assistant and tenured professors get five and 10, respectively,” shared Ferguson. “Researchers can also make micropayments to vote up articles they find particularly worthy.”
After this system is established, more changes are in store. “Any academic will be able to log in and make direct edits to the work of other researchers,” said Jamie Campbell, Devon R. Hess Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience and another member of the board. “This ties in directly with APS’s new Wikipedia initiative. In the future, we hope to bypass all the paper journals and report directly in online encyclopedias.”
These proposed changes have not been met without concern from others, however. “The fact of the matter is that I don’t want the world seeing my research,” admitted a postdoctoral fellow who wished to remain nameless. “It’s important to me that my work only falls on the eyes of people who can understand and appreciate it — the deserving. I have absolutely no desire to share my work where it can be viewed and critiqued on a large scale. Science should be a private, personal thing.”
One concern for up-and-coming researchers is how this change will affect CVs. APS leadership is currently working on the issue, proposing that a job candidate’s worth should perhaps be measured by the number of visitors to the candidate’s personal website and articles. “Such a method would sure be better than using the popularity of traditional published journal articles, with the modal citation count of zero and all,” according to a statement from the APS Board of Review and Metrics.
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