Rights of participants in psychological science research

Like any psychologist, researchers at the Institute for Research in Psychological Sciences are required to respect the ethical rules of their profession: respect for the dignity of the person and his private life, responsibility, competence, integrity, etc. For more information on this subject, see the page created by the Belgian Federation of Psychologists.

These general principles guide more specific provisions for voluntary participation in research aimed at advancing knowledge. In conducting his study, the researcher's primary purpose is not to help people or respond to their requests. On the contrary, it is he who asks for a service, in the form of time and effort devoted to his work, and this particularity requires him to follow a defined code of conduct to supervise human experimentation.

By analogy with biomedical research, and even if participation in psychological research does not involve risks comparable to those of medical treatment in the experimental phase, this code follows the recommendations initially formulated in the field of health sciences: respect for the autonomy and integrity of persons, charity ("first, do no harm") and justice (do not favour or disadvantage a category of persons).

In practice, these principles are translated into rules defined by the scientific community:
- Researchers undertake to seek the free and informed consent of participants, explaining in understandable language what participation will consist of: purpose, duration, potential hardship, known risks, etc. By signing the proposed form, participants do not waive any rights. They simply provide the researcher with evidence that they were not forced to submit to the study, nor were they left in ignorance of what really awaited them.
- Researchers undertake to respect the confidentiality of data and the privacy of participants by preserving their anonymity in any communication relating to the research.
- Researchers must inform participants of their right to withdraw from the study at any time without having to justify themselves.
- Whenever possible, at the end of their study, researchers should provide participants with a brief account of the main results obtained. If necessary, they will disclose information that was deliberately concealed during the presentation of the research in order not to distort its results by directing participants' conduct too clearly in the expected direction.

In short, researchers must be responsible and able to justify themselves in the face of any criticism of the merits of their approach. Researchers who are members of the Institute for Research in Psychological Sciences have in principle submitted their project to an Ethics Commission to obtain an opinion in favour of the proposed study. Participants who, in ethical matters, have questions about the procedures to which they have been subjected or who express doubts about the researcher's compliance with the rules may send a letter to this Commission at the following address: