TalkBank is an international database of audio, video, and transcript
recordings of vocal interactions from both humans and animals. The following
standards apply only to the human component of the database. The purpose
of these standards is to guarantee that the dignity of all the human participants
in TalkBank interactions is fully respected. Below, we give illustrations
of ways in which TalkBank data could conceivably be misused. No such misuses
have occurred. However, our purpose here is to guard proactively against
possible misuses. There are three groups of individuals involved:
Participants: the people who have been recorded,
Contributors: the researchers who have collected the recordings
and who have given them to TalkBank,
Users: the researchers who receive data from TalkBank.
The goal of theTalkBank Code of Ethics is to assure that users respect
the rights of both the participants and the contributors. The basic framework
for data included in TalkBank assumes the following model.
When the data were collected, participants signed an Informed Consent
release like the TalkBank sample. This consent
form was approved by the local IRB or Institutional Review Board.
The IRB or Institutional Review Board is a panel of researchers at
a university that reviews all research conducted at the institution.
Each IRB sets up its own procedures. However, we assume that these standards
are in general agreement with those suggested by TalkBank.
Some data will be collected outside of the IRB model. These include
data collected before the IRB system was established, data from non-funded
work, and data from speakers of indigenous
and endangered languages. Data collected in these other ways are
still subject to the same ethical concerns as for data collected with
IRB-approved informed consent forms.
Users must be members of TalkBank. Membership is open to all scholars
and students. Members are given passwords to access data sets and are
sent other data sets on CD-ROM or similar media. Membership can be revoked
if there is evidence that a user has violated this Code of Ethics.
The TalkBank Code of Ethics is composed of seven basic principles:
Appreciation to Contributors. The contributors of TalkBank data
have spent many long hours collecting and transcribing data. Although data-sharing
is a scientific responsibility, not all scientists have learned to
accept this responsibility.
Often scientists refrain from data-sharing because they believe
that, by sharing their data, they will advance the careers of their competitors.
Therefore, when scientists decide to share their data publicly,
we owe them both respect and appreciation. It would be wrong, for example,
to publish criticisms of the transcription or data collection methods involved
in the corpora you analyze. In addition, as noted in the Ground Rules page,
Researchers who use TalkBank data
must carefully cite their sources. We at TalkBank are happy to acknowledge
these contributions by writing letters of support to departmental review
committees and granting agencies explaining the important of data
contribution to the advance of science.
Respect for Participants. The participants in TalkBank interactions
have made an important contribution to scientific research by permitting
scholars to access and analyze their data. Both the contributors
and the users of language data need to recognize the generosity of
participants in making their data publicly available. It would be
wrong to repay this generosity by making any open public criticism of
these individuals. In particular, commentary on participants needs to
avoid comparisons between speakers in terms of personal characteristics
such as intelligence, verbal facility, social skills, or physical appearance.
Comparisons can often be interpreted as envidious and should be generally
avoided. If properly expressed, it is still possible to analyze speech
features in a positive fashion. Examples of ways of dealing with this
are given below.
Confidentiality. No personal data about individual subjects will
be made available to users apart from video and audio records and basic
facts such as age or location of the taping. Recordings must be done in
accord with legal principles barring
surreptitious recording. When participants grant permission to include
their data, they often assume that the interactions are being analyzed by
researchers with whom they are not personally acquainted. If a user happens
to discover that they are personally acquainted with a particular participant,
and if they have not received direct permission from the participant to
examine their data, they must refrain from further analysis of the data,
since use of such data would then violate assumptions about confidentiality.
Respect for Groups. TalkBank data is contributed by individual
contributors and participants. However, these individuals are also members
of groups. Many of these groups have developed a well-justified sensitivity
to criticism from the wider society. Generally, analyses of TalkBank
data should avoid making between-group comparisons that impact core
features of social identity and worth.
Acceptance of Professional Review. Because it is often difficult
for users to determine whether their analyses might violate the above
two respect principles, TalkBank has established a review committee
that will provide reviews of interpretations that are destined for public
presentation in either written or oral form. In most cases, users can
make their own individual determination of whether their analyses include
questionable components. If there is a possibility that they might,
it is the responsibility of the user to submit the interpretations for
review by the review committee. It is the goal of this Committee to
promote all reasonable scientific use of TalkBank data that do not conflict
with the two respect principles. In most cases, these two goals can
be reconciled by careful wording of analyses and presentations and by
the inclusion of explanatory material. Examples are given below.
Responsibilities for Data-Sharing. All TalkBank members accept
the responsibility to contribute the results of their studies to TalkBank
and to participants to grant access to the data whenever possible.
Sanctions. If users violate this Code of Ethics, it becomes
the responsibility of the whole TalkBank community to counter the misuse
in public forums and through personal contact. TalkBank cannot block
the publication of disrespectful or irresponsible analyses. However,
it can call the community's attention to these abuses when they occur.