Strict guidelines in place for research projects, say universities

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After alleged sexual assault, universities say protocols are in place

All research projects are strictly regulated, with fixed procedures that students have to adhere to before embarking on them.

This is what universities and professors told The New Paper yesterday, after an incident at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) where a student allegedly molested a boy, 17, for "research" purposes.

On Saturday, The Straits Times reported an NTU graduate student, 25, had been arrested.

He had allegedly posted advertisements on Craigslist and Gumtree, looking for boys in junior college, polytechnics or secondary schools to assist in body stimulation experiments in his dormitory room.

The alleged victim claimed he had been sexually assaulted.

An NTU spokesman said all research proposals must be approved by the university before they can be carried out. "Any research involving human participants must be submitted to the Institutional Review Board for review and approval."

He added that the university views academic and research misconduct as serious disciplinary offences. They are assisting in police investigations.

The spokesman said university-approved research projects would involve a faculty member responsible for supervising the study.

Advertisements for university-approved research projects will have features such as a formal research title with specific recruitment criteria, contact details of the investigating researcher and the Institutional Review Board (IRB), an IRB project number and the NTU logo.

Associate Professor Tan Ying Ying, a linguist at NTU, told TNP that experiments and projects are typically done in the laboratory with other personnel and assistants. Projects are not done in dormitory rooms.

Assistant Professor Michael Tan Koon Boon of NTU's School of Art, Design and Media added that researchers have to submit forms on how to prepare for the project, including ethical and consent issues.

He said: "Ethics concern the safety and rights of participants. Participants are also usually told the venue, number of sessions, activities and objectives of the research beforehand."

A National University of Singapore (NUS) spokesman said researchers are required to follow protocols, which take into account the safety and well-being of research subjects.

NUS also regularly reviews its research integrity policy to maintain the highest standards of ethics and research integrity.

NUS undergraduate Sean Lim, 22, said that in April last year, he had received a WhatsApp message warning students of a man asking them for permission to take photographs of their feet.

He claimed it was for nature research purposes. Students were told to alert campus security if they saw him.

NUS sociologist Tan Ern Ser said participants should be wary, especially if the research procedures differ from what was first explained to them.