2014 Webinar: Assessing Risk in Social and Behavioral Research

Webinar Archives - Members  Webinar Archives - Non-Members


Risk to subjects is one of the central issues in research ethics. Institutional review boards (IRBs) and investigators must not only evaluate the risks in the study, but also ensure that the risks are minimized and are reasonable in relation to the benefits of the research.

Many people confuse "risk" with "harm." Risk is actually the "possibility of harm." Determining the level of risk requires evaluating both the magnitude of the possible harm and the likelihood of the harm occurring. In addition, the risks and harms inherent in social, behavioral, and educational research (SBER) frequently differ from those associated with biomedical research. 

This webinar provided a framework for identifying and assessing risks in SBER. The speakers explored the following issues using case studies: 

  • Assessing risk level and applying the definition of minimal risk
  • Identifying risks in SBER
    • Types of risk that commonly arise in SBER
    • Unique characteristics of SBER risks
  • Employing best practices to minimize risks and informing subjects about them 
  • Evaluating whether risks are reasonable in relation to the benefits

This intermediate-level webinar was of interest to IRB chairs, members, directors, and staff who review social/behavioral research, as well as to investigators who conduct this type of research.


Jeffrey M. Cohen, PhD, CIP currently serves as principal and CEO of the HRP Consulting Group, Inc., a firm engaged in training and consulting in human research protections. Previously, Dr. Cohen served for two years as associate dean of research compliance at Weill Medical College of Cornell University. Prior to his service at Weill Medical College, Dr. Cohen served as director, Division of Education and Development in Office for Human Research Protections (OHRP) in the US Department of Health and Human Services. At OHRP, Dr. Cohen was responsible for OHRP’s human subjects education program. This included coordination of a national program of educational workshops, the development and dissemination of educational materials, making presentations and conducting training sessions for institutions and professional organizations, and the development of on-line training materials.

Dr. Cohen received his PhD in experimental psychology from Northern Illinois University in 1974. For twenty years Dr. Cohen served in the office for research at the University at Albany, State University of New York. As associate director for research compliance and information management he was responsible for ensuring that all research activities at the university were in compliance with federal regulations, administered the IRB and the IACUC, and served as director of the laboratory animal facility. Dr. Cohen has been an active contributor to national discussion of human subjects issues since 1979, is an active participant at national meetings such as those sponsored by PRIM&R, and is a past president of ARENA (Applied Research Ethics National Association). Dr. Cohen is also a Certified IRB Professional.  In 2009, Dr. Cohen received PRIM&R’s ARENA Legacy Award.

Certificates of Attendance

Certificates of attendance for the Best Practices for Assessing Risk in Social and Behavioral Research webinar were made available at the conclusion of the webinar. To access the certificate, you must first complete the online evaluation. Such certificates are useful for obtaining continuing education (CE) credits (not Continuing Medical Education credits) from professional associations. Note that guidelines concerning CE credits may differ, and you should consult the appropriate professional association representative for further guidance.

CE Credit for Certified IRB Professional (CIP®) Recertification
Webinar participants holding the CIP credential who wish to apply credits from Best Practices for Assessing Risk in Social and Behavioral Research toward CIP recertification may submit the Certificate of Attendance they received upon completing the online evaluation as documentation of their participation. Participation in this 60-minute webinar counts as 1 CE credit hour.

For recertification by CE, CIPs must complete 30 documented hours of continuing education. At least 15 of the 30 hours must either carry credits issued by a recognized accrediting body or have received advanced recognition from the Council for Certification of IRB Professionals (CCIP). Credits from PRIM&R webinars have received such advance recognition, and may be counted towards these 15 hours.

Additional information about CIP recertification can be found here.