NIH Grant on Confidentiality

Posted On May 28, 2010
Categories CLHS, Faculty

“Research participants won’t give accurate information about their drug use if they’re afraid they’ll end up in jail.” – Leslie Wolf

Professor Leslie Wolf, in collaboration with researchers at Duke University, received a prestigious two-year, National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant to study use and understanding of Certificates of Confidentiality, a document issued by the federal government to protect research participants’ sensitive information.

Certificates of Confidentiality originally were developed to encourage research on substance abuse. “Research participants won’t give accurate information about their drug use if they’re afraid they’ll end up in jail,” Wolf said.  Certificates were later expanded to other types of research, including HIV/AIDS, sexual behavior, and genetic research, in which release of participant information could stigmatize, embarrass, or lead to legal, financial, or other problems for the participants.

With partners from Duke, Wolf said the research will survey and interview institutional review board chairs and interview legal counsel. The research team also hopes to identify cases in which research data was sought to understand how Certificates work in practice.

“We hope that the project will provide information that improves Certificate use to best protect research participants,” Wolf said.

Wolf’s grant is the first NIH grant received by the law school. Having conducted empirical research throughout her career, Wolf said she expects to continue to seek research grants to support this type of research. The College of Law will receive over $190,000 to support the two-year study.