The U.S. Naval Academy subscribes to the highest levels of ethical practice and mandates that all activities related to human subject research at the Academy and at the Naval Academy Preparatory School be guided by the ethical principles set forth in the 1979 report of the National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research entitled "Ethical Principles and Guidelines for the Protection of Human Subjects of Research". This document, known as the Belmont Report, elucidates three basic ethical principles for the protection of human subjects involved directly or indirectly in research studies. These three principles are:
- Respect for Persons. The Naval Academy recognizes the personal dignity and autonomy of individuals and affords special protection to persons with diminished independence or particular vulnerabilities, including prisoners, children, those who are mentally or cognitively disabled, pregnant women, and/or economically or educationally disadvantaged persons. Human subjects must be allowed to enter into a research project or study voluntarily and with adequate information to make an informed decision with respect to involvement.
- Beneficence. The Naval Academy recognizes its responsibility to protect persons by maximizing the anticipated benefits of an activity while minimizing potential harm. In all cases, the possible risks to human subjects involved in a research initiative must be assessed against the potential benefits to the subjects, as well as against the improvement and expansion of knowledge that might be obtained as a deliverable of the research project.
- Justice. The Naval Academy recognizes its obligation to execute a fair distribution of research benefits and burdens. In selecting human subjects for a research project, investigators must ensure that no group of participants is either consistently selected to participate, or consistently deprived of the opportunity to do so.
Collectively, these three principles provide the foundation of the Naval Academy's policies and procedures for the protection of human subjects.
To have a viable and unified Human Research Protection Program at the Naval Academy, everyone must be involved in and supportive of this program. All constituencies of the Naval Academy and of the Naval Academy Preparatory School are legally and morally responsible for the ethical, humane, lawful and professional treatment of human subjects in research projects, and for the proper safeguarding of the data about the subjects. In all endeavors, the intent to do the right thing - ethically and professionally - must remain the foundation of the Naval Academy's Human Research Protection Program.
The USNA Institutional Review Board (IRB) and Human Research Protection Program are now compliant with the new Common Rule (45 CFR 46/ 32 CFR 219) as of 21 January 2019.