The ethical review

The postdoc is preparing an application to the University’s ethical review board. She’s already written 2000 words on data management and the obligations of system administrators, with links to relevant articles of the local law. She now comes to the next section of the review form.

‘Describe in which ways your planned experiment might cause any kind of discomfort to the participants, physical or emotional (if any).’

She looks again at her experimental procedure and associated data. The first question to the participants is this:

QUESTION 1. Using your knowledge of the world, please tag this sentence as True or False: Not all horses are white.

She can’t fail to remember that posh girl at secondary school – Erika van Wicktrach or something – who was so upset the Christmas she got a horse, and the horse was brown but she’d wanted a white one, like in the fairy tales.

She resolutely types in ‘no expected discomfort’, for the love of science.

In her dreams that night, the van Wicktrachs are suing the university for emotional damage. And it’s entirely, completely, utterly her fault.