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Publication Criteria and IRB Regulations
The JSCE offers speedy publication of high quality work as a service to authors who have crafted papers for delivery at the annual meeting of the SCE, and as a service to the members of the Society and of the larger academic community who benefit from the published presentation of these contributions to ethical inquiry. The editors’ first objective, then, is to discern which of the papers, among those submitted for consideration, represent the most penetrating and fruitful contributions to our common enterprise of inquiry. The system of expert and editorial review developed by the editorial board has been put in place to ensure fairness and equity in the assessment of the quality of the papers available for publication.
In selecting papers for publication, the editors and editorial board will consider whether the paper:
- Represents the full scope of the Society’s scholarly interests: theological, philosophical, historical, professional, and social ethics; primarily Christian ethics but also Jewish, Islamic, and comparative ethics. This representation will not be possible in any single issue, but the issues of the JSCE, taken together, should reflect this diversity.
- Provides a forum for the work of new scholars (those in the first five years or so beyond the dissertation) and for the articulation of emerging issues and perspectives. Some preference may be given to papers from new scholars or papers on particularly timely topics, but only within the guidelines concerning quality.
Referees and co-editors will use the following criteria when evaluating papers:
- Does the paper make sense? Is it clearly written and comparatively free of jargon? Are the distinctions crisp? Is the argument coherent and accessible? Does the paper offer a strong line of argument with appropriate support and adequate development? Is the argument complex, sophisticated, or unusually elegant?
- Is the paper competent? The issue here is scholarly substance. Is the author familiar with the principal dimensions of the topic and with the established body of relevant literature? Does the author handle sources honestly, resourcefully, and without distortion? Has the author offered an even-handed treatment of the topic or do the author’s own commitments bias the presentation in worrisome ways? If the author’s position is controversial, does she or he position her or his work in the context of the current debate?
- Does the paper make a significant contribution? Does it offer an analytic, creative, or constructive contribution to the field? Is the work original, provocative, or unusually incisive? Is the argument adventurous? Does it open new possibilities or raising a plausible challenge to the reigning consensus? Does the paper add to, rather than merely repeat, what is already available in the work of others?
The following criteria are strongly encouraged.
- Does the paper follow contemporary standards of language use? The JSCE is committed to inclusive, non-discriminatory, and non-inflammatory language. Does the paper reflect in any way writing that is sexist, racist, homophobic, xenophobic, or otherwise derogatory of gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or religion?
- Does the paper reflect contemporary standards of diversity? Does the paper follow the recommendations of the “Twenty-First Century Report” and the commitment of the JSCE Editorial Board to foster the dialogue among the diverse perspectives present in the SCE and to encourage deliberately this discourse through the critical and sustained engagement of the work of scholars who are currently underrepresented in the academy? Does the paper engage the work of emerging scholarship from, for example, Black and Womanist, Hispanic/Latina° and Mujerista, Asian and Asian American, and other context-based theologies? Does the paper include critical scrutiny and social/self-reflection of the racial, cultural, and/or religious implications for the subject, scholarship, or method of the investigation? Does the paper review scholarship beyond North American contexts and/or examine work in languages other than English? Does the paper explore the work of scholars throughout the world, that is, does the paper demonstrate consideration of the subject beyond a North American-centric worldview?
- Does the paper advance interdisciplinary approaches and/or methodologies? Has the author used another discipline’s hermeneutic to explore and value the questions of ethical inquiry? Does the paper deliver insight from another discipline’s tools of investigation? Is the methodology sufficiently presented?
- Is the paper of general interest? Does it address important ethical questions? Does it draw upon religious and theological resources in addressing these questions? Will the paper interest large numbers of the Society’s members, however specialized its particular subject matter may be?
IRB Regulations on Research Involving Human Subjects
As some members of the Society of Christian Ethics begin to engage research methodologies that include data gathering by means of research involving human subjects, the SCE recognizes that this type of research may fall under the purview of the US Department of Health and Human Services, Office for Human Research Protections and Federal Code Regulations 45 CFR Part 46 (Federal Policy for the Protection of Human Subjects, also known as the “Common Rule”; full text http://www.hhs.gov/ohrp/humansubjects/commonrule/index.html) or analogous agencies in other countries. In order to ensure that the highest standards of research are employed in studies that include the participation of human subjects and consistent with the “Standards of Professional Conduct” of the SCE (http://scethics.org/about-sce/who-we-are/official-documents/standards-professional-conduct/section-2-professional), the SCE requires of its members conducting research with human subjects, which they propose and intend to present at the Annual Meeting or a Regional Meeting of the SCE, that they seek approval from a local Institutional Review Board (IRB) or its analogue in countries outside of the US in compliance with the “Common Rule” or with analogous laws of other countries. The “Common Rule” requires that research involving human subjects undergo scrutiny by and receive approval from an IRB or its analogue prior to the start of study to ensure that subjects are protected from harm (policy approved, SCE Board of Directors, January 8, 2009).
Dedicated to promoting “scholarly work in Christian ethics and in the relation of Christian ethics to other traditions of ethics, and to social, economic, political and cultural problems” (“Purpose,” SCE), the SCE is increasingly aware of the benefits of interdisciplinary initiatives and members have begun to use some of the research methodologies of complementary disciplines. Likewise, SCE members utilize published historical and contemporary studies that address various human rights and social justice issues in national and international contexts as well as pioneering research that depends upon the participation of research subjects. Particularly regarding research in applied ethics, individuals and groups have been consulted, interviewed, and/or observed with a view to the ethicist’s descriptive, analytical, and evaluative research followed by the presentation of findings based in part on the ethicist’s work with human subjects. It is to these methodologies used for research proposed and intended for presentation at Annual or Regional meetings that the SCE policy regarding research with human subjects is directed.
Moreover, rather than being a burden to SCE members, the requirement of IRB/analogue approval reminds researchers of their professional responsibility to ensure that appropriate protections are in place before they initiate studies that involve human subjects (see JSCE, “Publication Criteria,” SCE website http://www.scethics.org/journal.html or the Office for Human Research Protections Investigator Responsibility Frequently Asked Questions http://www.hhs.gov/ohrp/investigatefaq.html; when in doubt, consult your local IRB/analogue).
The SCE is committed to the highest standards of scholarship and conduct among our members and between our members and the communities they serve, and the subjects –personal and theoretical—they investigate. Recognizing the “Standards of Professional Conduct” and the “Purpose” of the SCE, members of the Society have particular professional commitments and responsibilities; chief among them is the protection of human subjects before, during, and after the conduct of research that involves methodologies based on data gathering by ethnographic studies, fieldwork, interviews, deliberate observation, etc. Our principal concern is that “our examination of moral issues shall respect the dignity of persons whose practices and positions we study.”
Some examples of scholarly activity to which this IRB Policy applies:
- Interviews with administrators at religiously-based or secular facilities or agencies (health care, academic, corporate, government, social) on how religious values are incorporated into practice.
- Surveys of patients or clients asking how their religious views influence(d) their decisions.
- Assessment of a new curriculum on training providers to perform spiritual or value assessments that involves additional work (focus groups, feedback, etc.) on the part of the students.
- Comparison of coping skills and/or health status of participants of a weekly Bible study with participants in a secular book club.
- Longitudinal assessment of students’ or participants’ spiritual needs or beliefs throughout their educational experience.
- Ethnographic studies, fieldwork, focus group session(s), deliberate observation and recording of the findings about the human subjects studied, engaged, and/or observed (especially where these findings include identifying marks or information about the persons studied in areas of political or social unrest).
- Interviews with and/or survey instruments administered to people at and about their work, play, worship, diet, family, and/or about information that is readily identified as sensitive (e.g., regarding race, ethnicity, culture, sexuality, health and/or health status, etc).
Some examples of scholarly activity to which this policy does not apply:
- Analysis, interpretation, and/or constructive theorizing about published sources only.
- Research using material, including published interviews, already available in the public domain.
- Research intended to interpret past events, intellectual movements, and/or history and which does not use “live” interviews as one of the means of collecting data.
- Observation of public behavior that does not include investigator interaction.
- Research conducted in routine educational settings on instruction strategies or in comparison with alternative techniques for assessment and/or instruction, curricula and/or its development, and/or classroom management methods.
Much of the work among the members of the SCE would qualify as exempt. However, whenever research involves human subjects as part of the research methodology of collecting data, that research protocol ought to be submitted to a local IRB; the IRB is the party responsible for the determination that a research protocol is exempt from these policy requirements. For the official/federal guidelines determining research that qualifies as exempt from this policy see 45 CFR §46.101 (b).
45 CFR §46.102 Definitions (abbreviated).
(d) Research means a systematic investigation, including research development, testing and evaluation, designed to develop or contribute to generalizable knowledge.
(f) Human subject means a living individual about whom an investigator (whether professional or student) conducting research obtains