"Because the problems related to social experimentation may differ substantially from those of biomedical and behavioral research, the Commission specifically declines to make any policy determination regarding such research at this time. Rather, the Commission believes that the problem ought to be addressed by one of its successor bodies. " The Belmont Report
CASSEL letter to NSF


The UCLA/CASSEL Experience

Since July 2000 we have been negotiating with the UCLA OPRS to get approval to conduct economics experiments at CASSEL. The only substantive discussion has been over informed consent. Here is a chronology of what has happened, along with some relevant documents.

We originally proposed a series of public goods experiments in October 2000. These were approved as exempt. Here is the informed consent from that submission.

In February we were told that additional approval was required for the web sign up page. Here is the proposal we made in February. Here is the version approved by the OPRS March 23. During this interchange, by mutual consent, we agreed that it was better to use email addresses rather than social security numbers as identifiers. This has been the only substantive outcome of this process. We also agreed that in addition to reading this form on the web, partipants would read and sign the form when they arrived for each session; in retrospect, we should not have agreed to this.

We were notified on April 16 that no experiments conducted at CASSEL could ever be granted exemption. After a period of confused interchange about why this was so, we were informed that we would need in addition to the web consent to provide seperate written and signed consent with specific details about every session. Here is a sample form approved by the UCLA OPRS on May 2. It contains two significant elements not present in the web sign up process: an explicit disclosure of the technical hypothes being studied, and some information about the length of different parts of the experiment, together with some details about each part. The latter is unecessary and irrelevant; participants receive much more detailed oral instruction a few minutes after signing the form. The former would invalidate our research because of the disclosure of the detailed purpose of the research. We have indicated to the OPRS that we are unwilling to use such a form. They proposed debriefing: here is the approved form for use with debriefing. However, the use of debriefing would compromise our subject pool, and we are equally unwilling to use it.

Here is our latest proposal for a web based disclosure form. We submitted this for informal review together with other material documenting the reasons for this approach on May 25 after meeting with the OPRS on May 21. As of June 8 we have received no feedback.