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I am working on an IRB application for my study on use of assisted
reproductive services in an immigrant community.

The research will elicit each woman's personal network, and collect
compositional data about the alters. Alters themselves will not be

Following information I gleaned from this forum and series of articles
published in Social Networks in 2005 on IRB issues raised by social network
data, I propose to assure confidentiality and anonymity of the data by:

*-- replacing all names with numerical IDs*

*-- destroy all linking info, including process used in linking IDs to

*-- segment the data collection instrument: attribute data will be
separated from reproductive risk experiences (attempts at pregnancy, failed
ARV procedures), compositional data on alters will be separated from alter
lists. All data can be merged using unique numerical codes,  attached to
each data segment.*

*-- Training of all project staff in confidentiality protection*

*-- Limit the number of project staff with access to any identifying

*-- In-depth data from interviews will be stored in mp3 format and voices
of all participants will be modified using Voxal Voice Changer software*

*-- Data will be stored on secured, encrypted computers and beyond
institutional firewalls, accessible via VPN channels.*

*-- I will also need to argue to the IRB that collection of data on alters
is necessary for network research, and it is will be practically impossible
to seek consent from all alters in the study, hence consent need to be
waived for alters (secondary subjects).*

Are these the standard protections that need to be taken?  I would
appreciate comments and these plans, and any recent experiences (beyond
2005) of how SNA researchers deal with IRB issues.

Thanks in advance - Noela

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