Whenever you do research on actual human beings, you have to get approval from the university that your research is in line with ethical standards. In your typical undergraduate class, you learn, usually via a really goofy video about the Stanford prison experiment or the Milgram experiment, that the two pillars of ethical research are 1) Do no harm and 2) Informed voluntary consent. Of course, these are good ethical principles to adhere to, but as with everything in life, adhering to these things can be a slippery slope. Unless of course, you are doing research on the use of advanced statistical methods by baseball fans. Typically, when you are just doing interviews, there is an exemption form that you can fill out and the university gives it a once over and off you go. However, I have been thinking that another way of gathering data would be through various online forums that SABR or Baseball Prospectus hosts. I figure that there is already lively discussion about the things I am looking at, so it would be a good source of background information and some ideas for interview questions. Unfortunately for me, that means I cannot get the exemption and I have to go through the whole human subjects approval protocol, which involves a much longer application and a bigger pain in my ass.
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