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Ethics & Human Research

An Argument for Reinterpreting the Benign Behavioral Intervention Exemption

Abstract: Recent changes to the Common Rule have helped reduce regulatory burden on researchers conducting minimal risk research. However, in this paper, I propose a way of minimizing burden further within the existing confines of the current regulations. I focus my discussion on the newly created “benign behavioral interventions” category of exempt research, arguing that this exemption from the federal regulations governing research with human subjects should be more expansively interpreted by the Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Human Research Protections (SACHRP) than is currently the case. Specifically, I argue against the restriction, advocated by SACHRP, that the exemption exclude “physical (bodily) tasks” unless they are “incidental to the behavioral intervention.” This restriction, I argue, is problematically vague and does no significant moral work. Acceptance of my proposed reinterpretation of “benign behavioral interventions” would, I hope, result in a significant reduction in regulatory burden for minimal risk research.

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