Apple Now Requires ResearchKit Apps To Get Ethics Board Approval



Since introducing ResearchKit, its open-source framework for scientists to develop iPhone apps for medical research, Apple has made a few tweaks to the submission guidelines for apps that aim to collect and use sensitive medical data. One new addition is that anyone submitting an app that does research on humans must submit proof that the study has been approved by an independent ethics review board.

Whether the research includes simply taking a survey or experimental drugs or surgery, any research that involves experimenting on people must be approved by an ethical review board. That doesn’t mean that you take a research proposal down the hall to friendly colleagues and say, “Hey, guys, does this look ethical to you?” For researchers who work at a hospital or a university, for example, their institutions will have their own review board which should function independently. Outside review boards for hire are also available for researchers whose institutions don’t have one. Apple is now leaving those decisions to the respective review boards of researchers who are submitting apps.

This probably won’t matter very much in the context of apps that will be part of ResearchKit, since it’s difficult for taking a survey or monitoring your heart rate on a smart watch to kill or significantly harm you. Still, participants’ privacy is important, and so is their overall well-being: asking remote research subjects to perform tasks that could be dangerous for them or questions that are potentially upsetting.

App Store Review Guidelines [Apple]

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