Four Eyes Principle

Last modified by Iris Spruit on 2024/04/15 10:33

The four-eyes principle, why?

The current protocol explains the four-eyes principle when testing in the laboratory. Through respecting and abiding by this principle, the organization actively supports a safe environment for staff, students, and research participants, and at the same time creates a culture of accountability within the SSH Labs.

When does the four-eyes principle apply?

The four-eyes principle applies when employees or students are working with vulnerable participants.

In consultation with the Health, Safety and Environment unit of Leiden University and in line with the Medical Research Involving Human Subjects Act (in Dutch: WMO), participants under 16 years of age are considered vulnerable participants in which case the four-eyes principle applies. In addition, all people who are unable to give informed consent (e.g., due to certain cognitive impairments) are always considered vulnerable, in which case the four-eyes principle also applies.

Researchers and the Ethics Committees need to give some thought to whether a particular group is vulnerable in specific studies, and for what reason; vulnerability could be context-dependent (see EU codes, section 3.5). Note that employees and students themselves can be considered vulnerable as well. Therefore, when designing the study, the researchers need to consider if the four-eyes principle applies, and/or if other measures are needed to mitigate potential risks of coercion or power differentials.  

The four-eyes principle in practice

 Please note that everyone using the (SSH) Lab facilities is expected to be informed of and act in the spirit of the relevant local, national and international guidelines and protocols, such as local Lab Protocols by SOLO, the Netherlands Code of Conduct for Research Integrity and the European Code of Ethics in Social Sciences and Humanities. Principal Investigators and supervisors carry the end responsibility of their research and therefore play a role in ensuring that employees and students are sufficiently trained to carry out their duties. In turn, when employees and students do not feel adequately informed and trained to conduct their research, they are responsible for seeking advice from their supervisor(s), management team, and/or SOLO. In turn, Finally, the management team is responsible for providing a working environment that promotes and safeguards good practices in line with the codes of conduct and relevant regulations.

With regard to the four-eyes principle:

  • The researcher, meaning the person who carries out the study with the research participants must be within sight of a second staff member or student, the observer. In case the observer feels that a boundary has been crossed, this person can intervene or call for help via +31 (0)71 527 3701 (PdlC Labs); +31 (0)71 527 4444 (Sylvius SSH Labs);
  • The observer may be in the same room as the participant and the researcher, but may also be in an adjacent observation room that has a window/one-way screen into the research space;
  • Camera supervision is also permitted, as long as the camera image is followed continuously by the observer, in real time. This set-up is only allowed when a quick intervention is possible and only when necessary;
  • In the case of a study involving minors, the parent can also act as the observer if this does not: a. increase the vulnerability of the participant, b. compromise the safety of those involved in the experiment, or c. influence the outcomes of the research.

In case of violation of the four-eyes principle

Everyone, those involved in the research or not, can report non-compliance to this principle to the SSH Labmanager and the Scientific Director of the Institute. After an informal reminder by the Labmanager who also notifies the Ethics Committee and the Scientific Director, further non-compliance to this principle will lead to appropriate actions taken by the Management Board and Supervisor of the PI.

XWiki 14.10.13