Contemplation: Respect people



The word “respect to people ” in the Belmont report represents the research and design ethic which basically states researchers should respect participants’ decision. In order to better fulfill this ethic, the Belmont report states that “respect people” should follow two principles: treat participants as the “autonomous agents”, which means people who can understand their own situation and make decisions base on their consideration, and provide protection to participants with “diminished autonomy” , people who don’t have enough ability to make decision for themselves, such as little children (The Belmont Report 1979). Meanwhile, The Belmont Report also points out that “respect people” in research demands that researchers provide adequate information for participants to let them make decisions and that “subjects enter into the research voluntarily” (The Belmont Report 1979).
When people hear the words “respect to people” for the first time, they may think that this ethic may state that researchers should use polite tone to communicate with participants and express the polite attitude when treating participants to let participants feel relaxed and comfortable during the experiment. However, that is not what “respect for the people” is mainly about. To clarify, I will say respect is more about caring and respecting participants’ decisions unless their decisions will bring negative effects to others.


Apply the “respect for the people” principle, in reality, is much harder than it sounds like because researchers may face lots of dilemmas. One of the difficulties researchers will face is that how much information should they provide to participants. According to The Belmont report, “ respect for persons” demands that subjects enter into the research voluntarily and with adequate information” so that participants can make the decision (The Belmont Report 1979). However, some experiments require researchers not to tell important information to participants. The best examples for this situation are “single-blind experiment,” during which only researchers know everything about experiment but participants only know partial facts about the experiment. For example, one single blind experiment is conducted to find out participants’ reaction when they eat foods that they can not identify. Researchers conduct this experiment by using blinder to cover participants’ eyes and let them eat some foods, which participants don’t know and then record their reactions. In this experiment, researchers don’t provide enough information, which is what kind of foods they will eat during the experiment, to participants, and such information may greatly influence users‘ voluntary participation because if foods include something they don’t like, they may quit. However, if researchers tell what kinds of food they will eat, it may sharply influence participants’ reactions when they do the experiment. To sum up, if they give information to participants, they can’t get accurate data; if they don’t, they may break the “respect for the people” principle since they don’t give enough information to let participants make the decision, so it is difficult to apply the “respect for the people” principle.


In the sprint 2, we conducted a usability test on Lander Hall’s microwave oven, and this usability test can and should apply the “respect for the people” principle in the future. In this usability test, we asked participants to accomplish three tasks, which were to open and close the door, take out the tray and put it back and set the oven temperature to 400 degrees. During the process, we collected two kinds of data which included their satisfaction rate, time cost, and comments about the microwave oven. There are several places we had showed we applied “respect for the people” principle.
First of all, we provided enough information to our participants. At the beginning of the experiment, we read our instructions which included what we would do in details. That showed we had provided enough information to our participants so that they could make the thoughtful decisions based on both experiment information and their own situation.
Secondly, after we finished reading the instruction, we asked whether they would like to join this experiment for asking their consent. Here, the oral agreement was involved in supporting the informed consent and participant’s answers decided whether we should continue our experiment or not. We asked for their oral consent which means we treated our participants as autonomous agents. Their decision decided whether we should continue or not, and that means we respected our users’ decision and let them enter experiment with the high volunteer rate.
Though we didn’t have participants with diminished autonomy this time, we may meet in the future when we conduct the same experiment. In the future, if our participants become people who don’t have enough ability to make the decision on themselves such as little children, we will firstly clearly read our instructions to their guardians for consent. If their guardians don’t agree, we will stop our experiments. If their guardians agree, we will ask for our participants’ own idea in the simplest language. Then, we will continue our experiments only if we get consent from participants.


In the sprint one, I designed a mobile app called “Animal City.” This app has several functions such as letting users post their report, which is about local animals, in the online community, sending data to scientists, and finding the animals’ location in their city. In order to fully apply “respect for the people” I will add two features to my app.
Firstly, I will put the user agreement when users firstly use my app. In the user agreement, I will write all this app’s functions and purposes in detail. For example, I will tell our user “your reports will be sent to local scientists and be analyzed in order to learn more about local animals distribution. And, when you use this app’s function to find out what kinds of animals around you, this app will directly use your GPS to get your current location’s information.” Only when users finish reading the agreement and click Agree button can they begin to use this app. I think I need to do that because this can help our users clearly know what’s going on when they use this app, which means they will be fully informed so that they can make the careful decision on whether to use this app.
Secondly, to protect users with diminished autonomy such as little children, I will add some questions before they look the agreement such as their age to check whether they have enough ability to make the decisions for themselves. If they are qualified, they can sign the agreement directly. If they are not qualified, apps will tell our users “you need your guardians’ consent to use this app.” After their guardians finish autonomy test, their guardians can see the actual contents of the agreement. Our users can use this app only after their guardians click agree button.
During above two processes, the online written agreement are involved in the process of acknowledging autonomy in order to check participants’ ability of making decisions for themselves and whether they fully understand the information we provided or not. Users can inform us they fully understand my software and agree my terms of use by clicking the agree button on app’s agreement. To sum up, I will write down all of the details about my apps to fully inform our users so they can get enough information to make the decision. For people who with diminished autonomy, we will protect them by asking their guardians’ consent.

Reference list:

Office for Human Research Protections. (2016, March 15). The Belmont Report 1979. Retrieved April 25, 2017, from