[IPAC-List] IRB consent for selection research

Blair, Michael Michael.Blair2 at opm.gov
Fri Jun 28 12:44:44 EDT 2019

Megan –

In both the private and government sectors, it is common to administer selection measures for the purposes of research – namely collecting validation data.  In some instances, the measures are truly experimental, in that the results are not used in the hiring process.  In other instances, the measures are live (having prior validation evidence) and are periodically re-analyzed.  Another common scenario is to have unscored seed items embedded in an active assessment (fairly typical for CAT-based assessments).  The seed items may be slated as potential future items or they may be embedded as research items seeking to enhance the validity of the measure (for example, using an established set of items to gather construct validity evidence for instrument.  As Dennis points out, consent is given when the individual submits the application.  Based on the extent of the experimental measures, the applicant may be provided with some sort of notification and/or be allowed to opt out.  For example, if a particular assessment or the entire test battery is experimental, opting out may be an option.

I realize that the private and government sectors are different from the academic sector, but I wanted to provide some perspective.  Similar to the academic sector, in traditional research projects that recruit subjects, informed consent would be required and the researcher would go through the equivalent of an IRB.  Hope this helps.

Michael D. Blair
Lead Personnel Research Psychologist
United States Office of Personnel Management

P: 202-957-5427 | M: 202-957-5427
Michael.Blair2 at opm.gov<mailto:Michael.Blair2 at opm.gov> | www.opm.gov/HRS<http://www.opm.gov/HRS>

From: IPAC-List [mailto:ipac-list-bounces at ipacweb.org] On Behalf Of Megan Paul
Sent: Friday, June 28, 2019 11:11 AM
To: Dennis Doverspike <dennisdoverspike at gmail.com>
Cc: IPAC-List at ipacweb.org
Subject: Re: [IPAC-List] IRB consent for selection research


Thanks for calling out the nuances in my question. For context, this is a large multi-university partnership for a federal grant. IRB responsibilities have been coordinated such that they rest with two different universities (depending on the type of data), neither of which is my own, which makes it even harder to predict. In addition, I wouldn’t be surprised if neither had encountered this type of circumstance before, so I’d like to do my best to learn what others have done in similar situations. I think that the more we know about alternative approaches, the more likely we’ll be to arrive at a decision that meets everyone’s goals when we talk with them.

On the question of whether it constitutes research, I get hung up on the generalizability part of the definition. That part seems somewhat debatable. I can see the findings being generalizable in a very broad sense (e.g., constructs that predict performance in the job in question), but the specifics wouldn’t be shared and, even if we did, they wouldn’t automatically be applicable without further work in the organization anyway. So at this point, it’s more about the process, which is uncommon in the field we are working in. It could be a valuable contribution to a meta-analysis, though, which would make it feel more generalizable. My much bigger concern, though, is that if the IRB requirements are so onerous or obtrusive that applicants reconsider their desire to apply, decide to drop out when they otherwise wouldn’t have, or raise questions or objections about the fairness and validity of the hiring decision (whether or not the assessments played any role in that), the future of the project will be at stake, so we need to anticipate how to avoid that. So the distinction you’ve highlighted is an important one; I care less about debating whether it’s research than I do about whether it has the potential for negative practical implications.

I had similar thoughts regarding #2 but thought I might be alone in that thinking, so I really appreciate your perspective. As for #3, I confess that it wasn’t on our radar. Again, because we have multiple universities involved, that could be even more complicated than it already sounds, but it’s clear that we should look into it.

Thanks again,

Megan E Paul
Research Assistant Professor
University of Nebraska–Lincoln
Center on Children, Families, & the Law<http://ccfl.unl.edu/>
206 S. 13th St. Suite 1000 68588-0227
(402) 472-9812<tel:4024729812>

From: Dennis Doverspike <dennisdoverspike at gmail.com<mailto:dennisdoverspike at gmail.com>>
Sent: Thursday, June 27, 2019 7:34 PM
To: Joel Wiesen <jwiesen at appliedpersonnelresearch.com<mailto:jwiesen at appliedpersonnelresearch.com>>
Cc: Megan Paul <mpaul at unl.edu<mailto:mpaul at unl.edu>>; IPAC-List at ipacweb.org<mailto:IPAC-List at ipacweb.org>
Subject: Re: [IPAC-List] IRB consent for selection research


You can always call me but you are really asking two separate questions. The questions are:

1. Do you and should you go through IRB, I assume a University or Center IRB, for a selection project?

2. Should job applicants provide informed consent?

The answers are complex. I believe the answer to 2 is simpler, and for 1 you might need to call me.

For 2 - No, applicants should not provide informed consent. First, generally job applicants are seen as giving an implied informed consent, by the very nature of their being job applicants.  Further, collecting informed consent from job applicants involves another step and also increases the chances or odds they might be identified, depending upon your situation, so I would say no to informed consent for job applicants.  There is already a consent. Now, if the tests or assessment are outside the normal course of business, or involve extra work or time, then maybe you could make an argument, I would still say no, but maybe you could make an argument, or make an argument you should at least give them some information, but you could give them information without getting informed consent. Of course, the whole issue of informed consent as I said is totally separate from whether you need to go through IRB. However, this is a situation where my guess is an IRB panel would also say - do not get informed consent. That is what i have usually been told for selection and survey projects through the University. The informed consent adds a layer of intrusiveness to what is a normal part of getting or keeping a job, and you should not be adding a layer of intrusiveness.

1. Now we get complicated though. Do you even need to go through IRB? I would say that depends on your university. It also depends on how you are labeling your selection project, is it 1)research for publication - then yes probably IRB; 2) research for a thesis or a dissertation - then yes probably IRB; 3) a grant - then probably yes; 4) sales or service - I would say no. That is where it depends on your university set up, depending upon your university set up this type of work may be regarded as research, or sales and service, and they probably have existing rules on whether a project like this needs to be sent to IRB. Of course, if you do have to go through IRB, they will tell you if you need informed consent, and what type.

3. This is a big issue you do not mention. I know Omaha and Lincoln are public universities. And unless you are at a Foundation, which is separate from the University, then you are doing this research as a public entity. Because you are doing it as a public entity, you are probably subject to open records laws. So you might want to consider protecting the company and all of the applicant data by considering an NDA. Unless your University has rules that protect such research, although it might not be research as we discussed, or sales and service, from open records discovery, you probably want the company to request an NDA from you. Although I do not know Nebraska open records law law, that may help to shield you from open records requests. And does Omaha still have an applied center, you could talk to them as to how they handle it.

You should probably just talk to the University, or if under a foundation the foundation's, attorney about these issue.


On Thu, Jun 27, 2019 at 8:00 PM Joel Wiesen <jwiesen at appliedpersonnelresearch.com<mailto:jwiesen at appliedpersonnelresearch.com>> wrote:


I'll try to find an IRB submission that involved testing and send it to you.


Joel P. Wiesen, Ph.D., Director

Applied Personnel Research

62 Candlewood Road

Scarsdale, NY 10583-6040


(617) 244-8859


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On 6/27/19 5:42 PM, Megan Paul wrote:
Does anyone have experience with having job applicants provide IRB consent to participate in selection research? We’ll likely be looking at a few objective measures (e.g., personality, emotional intelligence), an interview, and possibly a writing assessment. I’m anticipating that the usual IRB language will be expected, but it seems like a bit of a misfit for the circumstances. Results of the objective measures won’t be used for decision making until after validation, but the others will be used for hiring decisions. It’s possible that we can make a convincing argument that consent is not needed (i.e., that it doesn’t constitute research), but if we can’t, I’d like some idea of how to best handle it in a way that’s acceptable to applicants.

Thanks in advance.

Megan E Paul
Research Assistant Professor
University of Nebraska–Lincoln
Center on Children, Families, & the Law<http://ccfl.unl.edu/>
206 S. 13th St. Suite 1000 68588-0227
(402) 472-9812<tel:4024729812>



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