January 18, 2009

Scientists using own kids as test subjects

Some U.S. researchers, stymied by a lack of test subjects, say they have begun using their own children in experiments.

Developmental psychologist Deborah Linebarger said necessity forced her to use four of her own children in experiments regarding how the media impacts children, The New York Times reported Sunday.

You need subjects, and they're hard to get, the Children's Media Lab researcher at the University of Pennsylvania said.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers Pawan Sinha and Deb Roy also have used their children to fuel their research ambitions.

Sinha attached a camera to his newborn child's head to capture the child's point of view for an experiment, while Roy placed video cameras and microphones throughout his home to follow his son's daily activities.

Center for Research Integrity Director Robert M. Nelson told the Times such research actions are questionable at best as they can bring about an unpredictable situation.

Once that parent becomes an investigator, it sets up an immediate potential conflict of interest, said Nelson, whose center is located at the Children's Hospital in Philadelphia. And it potentially takes the parent-child relationship and distorts it in ways that are unpredictable.