2015 Webinar - Hot Topics in Online Survey Research

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Online research methods are increasingly common across scholarly disciplines. Particular scientific and ethical issues arise for online researchers in the areas of recruitment, consent, and risk/benefit analyses. This webinar addressed three “hot topics” in online survey research:

  • Subject identification: Online recruitment methods face unique challenges in validating whether participants are human, unique, and eligible to participate. Presenters share strategies that address the challenges of misrepresentation and participant verification in online survey studies. 
  • Models of consent: Online consent processes are evolving, shaped by technology, online risk, and user demand. Optional consent, tailored consent, implied consent, and other approaches facilitated by online communication are changing how we think about and approach consent. Presenters examine the evolution of consent in the era of smart technologies and pervasive connectivity and ponder the future of online consent.
  • Risk/benefit analyses: What constitutes risk in online research? Are there new ways of thinking about minimal risk? As cybersecurity breaches occur on almost a daily basis, how can researchers minimize risk? In this segment, presenters discuss confidentiality concerns, collection of personal information, and research integrity issues in risk/benefit analyses. 

What Will I Learn?

By the end of this intermediate-level webinar, participants were able to:

  • Flag issues with subject identification during IRB review, and raise questions for how subject identity is verified
  • Exercise flexibility to better match consent with the real risks posed to internet research participants
  • Engage in appropriate risk/benefit analyses and balance trade-offs between wanting to identify study risks and understanding what participants want to—and should—know

Who Should Attend? 

IRB chairs, members, administrators, and staff who review internet survey research protocols, as well as investigators, benefited from attending this webinar.


Elizabeth Buchanan, PhD, is endowed chair in ethics and director of the Center for Applied Ethics at the University of Wisconsin (UW)-Stout. She serves as leadership director and vice-chair of the UW-Stout's IRB. She has presented her National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded research on IRBs and internet research to the Secretary's Advisory Committee to the Office for Human Research Protections (SACHRP) in 2010, 2012, 2013, and 2014, and was a primary contributor to the SACHRP recommendations on internet research. She has also presented at the Office for Human Research Protections Community Research Forums, and conducted professional development work with many IRBs nationwide. Dr. Buchanan has been on the PRIM&R faculty roster since 2008, has served on PRIM&R conference planning committees since 2012, and is a co-chair of PRIM&R’s 2015 SBER Conference. She is a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science Committee on Scientific Freedom and Responsibility. 

Dr. Buchanan’s most recent, NSF-funded research examined computer science pedagogy and ethics in graduate computer and information science education. Dr. Buchanan is the editor of one of the first anthologies of internet research ethics (Readings in Virtual Research Ethics, 2004), and is author and/or co-author to numerous papers on research ethics and methods. Dr. Buchanan is also primary co-author to the Association of Internet Researchers Ethics Guidelines for Internet Research. She holds Bachelor’s degrees from Rutgers University, and Master’s and PhD from UW-Milwaukee.

B. R. Simon Rosser, PhD, MPH, LP, is professor and director of the HIV/STI Intervention and Prevention Studies Program in the Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota. He has advanced degrees in psychology, epidemiology, and behavioral medicine, with postdoctoral training in clinical/research sexology. Born and raised in New Zealand, he helped found the New Zealand AIDS Foundation (1983); then completed the first PhD in HIV prevention in the Southern Hemisphere at the Flinders University of South Australia. Simon moved to University of Minnesota in 1990. He is an award-winning author of five books and more than 130 peer-reviewed scientific papers, serves as a National Institutes of Health reviewer, and is best known for his research in the areas of HIV prevention, male homosexuality, homophobia, sexual health, internet sex, online methods, and prostate cancer. For the last 12 years, as part of this research, Simon has conducted studies on online consent, subject identification, and other ethical issues related to conducting online research.

Certificates of Attendance

Certificates of attendance 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.

If you would like to receive a certificate of attendance for a previous PRIM&R educational program, please email info@primr.org or call 617.423.4112, ext. 0.

CE Credit for Certified IRB Professional (CIP®) Recertification
Webinar participants holding the CIP® credential who wish to apply credits from this webinar toward CIP® recertification may submit the Certificate of Attendance they received upon completing the online evaluation as documentation of their participation. Participation in this 90-minute webinar counts as 1.5 CE credit hours.

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.