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Teaching & Research Policies

The click on the following links to access Harvard Kennedy School teaching and research policies:

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA)

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA), known also as the Buckley amendment gave students certain rights with respect to the privacy of their educational records. The primary rights afforded are the right to inspect and review the educational records, the right to seek to have the records amended, and the right to have some measure of control over the disclosure of information contained in the records.
As employees of the Kennedy School, faculty and staff have a responsibility to protect all education records in their possession. These include any computer printouts, class lists on paper or on a computer, computer display screens, and notes taken during any kind of advising session with a student. Faculty and staff must not allow any students to view, read, or record another student’s ID number while in their workspace.

Protection of Human Subjects

All Harvard schools must comply with the University's policies on the use of human subjects in research. A "human subject" is defined to be a living individual from or about whom an investigator conducting research obtains data through intervention or interaction or obtains other identifiable private information. These policies are designed to (1) protect research participants, (2) protect the school and the university, and (3) instruct faculty, staff, and students about the ethical issues involved in conducting research with human subjects. All research involving human subjects must be approved by an appropriate school or university committee. For additional information:

Responsibilities with respect to student coursework and research.It is the responsibility of the instructor or faculty advisor to ensure compliance with University policies regarding the use of human subjects in research whenever human subjects may potentially face risks as the result of a course assignment or a student's individual project. If there are concerns that such may be the case, an application should be submitted to the HKS Committee on the Use of Human Subjects in Coursework This Committee works closely with the University-wide committee. Many issues can be easily addressed by the instructor, either in designing general assignments or on a case-by-case basis. In most cases, adjustments to research design are possible that allow the project to go forward without undue risk to participants.

For some courses other than the PAE and SYPA seminars, this issue may rarely arise. In others, the protection of human subjects may be an essential part of the curriculum or a class assignment. In courses in which assignments require the collection of information from human subjects, faculty members usually follow one of two approaches:

  1. Blanket approval for a class assignment or project. The instructor should apply for approval from the University's Standing Committee on the Use of Human Subjects for Research. A sample application is available from the Kennedy School's Associate Dean for Research.
  2. Individual student assignments or projects.It is the instructor's responsibility to inform the student (clearly and in writing) as to the principles that must be followed:
  • Students are required to fully inform participants about the purpose of the assignment or project.

PAEs & SYPAs and the Protection of Human Subjects:

The Policy Analysis Exercise (PAE) and the Second Year Policy Analysis (SYPA) are both subject to human subjects approval whenever the research involves human subjects in any way. It is the responsibility of PAE and SYPA seminar leaders to ensure that the students in their seminar have received human subjects approval for their projects. Similarly, it is the responsibility of PAE and SYPA advisors to ensure that the students they advise have received human subjects approval.
The Kennedy School Committee on the Use of Human Subjects in Course Work provides a Questionnaire for students to fill out to determine whether their research design raises sufficient concerns about the rights of human subjects to require further review by the Kennedy School. This questionnaire may be used for PAEs and SYPAs, or for work in other Kennedy School courses. Instructors may require students to fill out this questionnaire about the proposed research design. When completed, the instructors receive email notification with the results of the questionnaire, allowing a quick diagnosis of the problematic areas, if any. At this point, the faculty member may work with a student to resolve the issue or require submission of an application to the School’s Committee. Many of the problems that typically arise can be avoided by insuring that a research project includes (1) informed consent; (2) providing subjects sufficient opportunity to decline participation; and (2) avoiding the collection of identifiers.

  • Students must inform participants that participation is voluntary.
  • Students must maintain anonymity of the participants by never collecting any names or enough information to identify the participants.

In both of these approaches, if a student deviates from the approved protocols, the instructor should work with the student to determine whether application to the HKS Committee on Human Subjects is necessary. For courses in which it is unusual for a student project to involve the use of human subjects at all, faculty can utilize the materials developed by the School’s Committee.


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