ARL Policy for Protecting Human Subjects

It is the policy of the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) that all human subjects research and research related activities involving human subjects conducted within, or under the auspices of the Association, by any program officer, staff or affiliated personnel be in support of the ethical principles established by the National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research, as summarized by the Belmont Report.1

Responsibilities of the Researcher

All researchers who conduct or collaborate in a research activity are responsible for knowing whether or not their research involves human subjects. A "human subject" is a living individual about whom an investigator obtains either (1) data through interaction or intervention with the individual, or (2) identifiable private information.

Investigators in studies that involve human subjects research are encouraged to undergo training to improve research subject safety.2 Key personnel are by definition, all individuals responsible for the design and conduct of the study. This includes principal investigators (PIs) or co-PIs, anyone who will be interacting with the human subjects and anyone who will be handling the data even if they do not interact with the human subjects.

Responsibilities of ARL Program Officers

ARL Program Officers evaluate proposed research activities. In exercising their responsibility, ARL Program Officers should assess if the project work plan embodies the ethical principles of the Belmont Report. Based on this assessment they may approve, propose modifications, or table the research effort. An ARL Committee may be requested to advise on exceptionally sensitive proposals.


The Association of Research Libraries recognizes the vital role of their respondent's information. Primary data gathered by ARL from human subjects is kept strictly confidential and used for statistical purposes only. Published statistics are released in a way that is designed to prevent identification of individuals.

Release of Data

The data collected by human subjects research conducted by ARL, or under contract with other research agencies for ARL, are the property of the Association and may not be used for any purpose except as authorized by ARL. Data specific to any one project may be handled under separate guidelines, but will comply with the spirit and intent of this policy.

Established: 27 March 2002


  1. The full-text Belmont Report can be accessed via the U. S. Office of Health and Human Services Office of Human Research Protection Web site at:

  2. This certification process is straightforward and uses the NIH web-based training procedure. go to the NIH Computer-based Training Module and follow the instructions.