September 9, 2016
Social media has shown great promise as a research recruitment tool, allowing researchers to effectively connect with hard-to-reach populations and spread the word about open research projects quickly. However, federal regulations do not explicitly address the legal and ethical concerns associated with the use of social media in research recruitment, leaving a gray area that can prove difficult to navigate.
The Harvard Catalyst Regulatory Foundations, Ethics, & Law Program has released a guidance on the use of social media in recruitment to research. Its aim is to "provide institutions, IRBs, and investigators with the tools to evaluate the ethical and regulatory
acceptability of research protocols that propose to recruit study participants through the use of social
media." The guide lays out the background of the social media question, considers applicable laws and regulations, and provides checklists and other resources for researchers considering the use of social media in recruitment.