Homework 1: ethics


This homework is due 23:59 on Thursday, January 25.


This assignment must be completed individually.


Part 1: CITI ethics training

Please complete the “Basic” Social & Behavioral Research course through the CITI Program.

Below are the instructions for how to get started on it.

Register for a CITI account

  1. Go to the Citi Program website: https://www.citiprogram.org/
  2. Click on “Register”
  3. Type “New Jersey Institute of Technology”
  4. Check the box next to “I AGREE to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy for accessing CITI Program materials.”
  5. Another option will pop up. Check the box next to “I affirm that I am an affiliate of New Jersey Institute of Technology.”
  6. Click on “Continue to Create Your CITI Program Username/Password”

Enroll in the Social & Behavioral Research - Basic course

Once you register, you’ll be asked to “Select Curriculum” that you want to complete.

Say “no” to everything (e.g., you will not be working with Frogs, Toads or other Amphibians — sorry) except in Question 4, Human Subjects Research, indicate the following choice:

Social & Behavioral Research Investigators: Choose this group to satisfy CITI training requirements for Investigators and staff involved primarily in Social and Behavioral research with human subjects.

Even though it sounds relevant, you do not need to complete the Information Privacy Security (IPS) course.

Complete all the “Required Modules”

You can stop when you reach the Optional Modules.

Part 2: (un)ethical study design

Please imagine that you are an evil scientist working in the usable privacy & security field. Design an unethical study that you would want to run.

Your study must satisfy the following criteria:

  • It should be related to computer security or privacy.
    • For example, a study in which people are bitten by radioactive spiders would be out of scope.
  • It should violate at least two of the three principles of the Belmont Report.
  • You should be able to articulate the scientific value and hypothesis behind the study.
    • For example, holding people’s files for ransom is unethical (please don’t do it!), but does not have scientific value behind it (unless you add some context and conditions).

Once you’ve figured out your evil plans, write them up in approximately one page (500 words). Please specifically include:

  1. What would your evil study be trying to accomplish?
    • Try to be as explicit as possible, for example by listing your research questions and/or hypotheses
  2. What would be its procedures?
    • What is the evil thing that you’d be doing that’s so unethical?
  3. Why is it unethical?
    • As part of your explanation, specify which principles of the Belmont Report the study violates
  4. Is there a way to answer your research question in an ethical manner?
    • Explain why or why not

What to turn in

For part 1, please turn in the “Completion Report” (not the Completion Certificate) that CITI provides you.

For part 2, please submit your write-up with the parts listed above. Your submission must be in the form of a PDF created using LaTeX. I recommend using Overleaf, for which NJIT provides a free premium-level subscription, and which also has some helpful tutorials in case you haven’t used LaTeX before.

Assignments should be submitted through Canvas.

Why am I making you do this?

  • As you’ll learn, review by an institutional review board (IRB) or a similar group is required for most types of research. With some exceptions, academics at a university aren’t allowed to conduct research without it!
    • In turn, the IRB requires us to complete this training.
    • Especially if you may be interested in publishing your research, this training is a strict prerequisite.
  • Even if there were no obligation for this training, it’s important to understand how to conduct research ethically!
    • While this training is probably not the most engaging way of learning about ethics (I recommend a dedicated course, such as IS 350: Computers, Society and Ethics), it is helpful for getting some of the essential background.

Grading notes

Part 1 (CITI training) will receive full credit for a passing score; i.e., you will not get more credit for higher scores on the quizzes.

Late policy

  • Assignments submitted up to 24 hours late receive a deduction of one letter grade (10 percentage points).
  • Assignments submitted more than 24 hours late receive no credit.
    • Due to the importance of ethics for our course, this assignment must be completed to pass the class, even if it receives no credit.
  • The late penalty will be waived for up to 3 homework assignments.
    • However, this cannot be stacked (you can’t use more than one late day per assignment).
    • Even with this waiver, an assignment submitted more than 24 hours late receives no credit.