Toward a More Public Discussion of the Ethics of Federal Social Program Evaluation

Jan Blustein

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Federal social program evaluation has blossomed over the past quarter century. Despite this growth, there has been little accompanying public debate on research ethics. This essay explores the origins and the implications of this relative silence on ethical matters. It reviews the federal regulations that generally govern research ethics, and recounts the history whereby the evaluation of federal programs was specifically exempted from the purview of those regulations. Through a discussion of a recent evaluation that raised ethical concerns, the essay poses-but does not answer-three questions: (1) Are there good reasons to hold federal social program evaluations to different standards than those that apply to other research?; (2) If so, what ethical standards should be used to assess such evaluations?; and (3) Should a formal mechanism be developed to ensure that federal social program evaluations are conducted ethically?

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationSocial Experimentation, Program Evaluation, and Public Policy
PublisherBlackwell Publishing Ltd
Number of pages21
ISBN (Print)9781405193931
StatePublished - Apr 21 2009


  • "Common Rule"
  • "Protection of Human Subjects"
  • "marginally needed"
  • "protracted, cumbersome and duplicative"
  • A Caveat
  • A Thought Experiment: Applying the Belmont Principles to a Social Program Evaluation
  • Incorporation of the Report into Federal Policy: Exclusion of Research on Public Social Programs
  • The Belmont Report

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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