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Virtual worlds are valuable research environments precisely because the relationships and responses of users are measurably real. – Joshua Fairfield, “Avatar Experimentation: Human Subjects Research in Virtual Worlds.“ Terra Nova. 02 Dec. 2010.
Dr. Fred Beyette, Director of the Point-of-Care Center for Emerging Neurotechnologies (POC-CENT) in
Second Life, a collaboration between the University of Cincinnati and the Department of Health & Human
Services, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging & Bioengineering (NIBIB).
Virtual worlds provide valuable new research tools to study human behavior, and the endless plasticity of the environments allow researchers to inexpensively prototype models in a uniquely collaborative environment, or explore data visualization in new and exciting ways.
At the University of Cincinnati, the UCSIM team can help you explore the possibilities including planning and designing your study, seeking funding, and preparing your IRB protocol for using virtual worlds as part of your research project.
We recommend reading the following articles/journals to help you prepare to conduct research in virtual environments:
Journal of Virtual Worlds Research Volume 3, Issue 1: The Researcher’s Toolbox
Journal of Virtual Worlds Research Volume 3, Issue 3: The Researcher’s Toolbox, Part II
Fairfield, Joshua, Avatar Experimentation: Human Subjects Research in Virtual Worlds (November 29, 2010). U.C. Irvine Law Review, Symposium Issue, 2011; Washington & Lee Legal Studies Paper No. 2010-14. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1717057
Shailey Minocha, Minh Tran and Ahmad John Reeves (2010). Conducting Empirical Research in Virtual Worlds: Experiences from two projects in Second Life. Journal of Virtual Worlds Research, vol. 3, no. 1. Available at: https://journals.tdl.org/jvwr/article/view/811/882
All applicable policies related to conducting human research also apply in virtual worlds, including receiving IRB approval. See the UC Research page for resources related to research at the University of Cincinnati.
Researchers must also receive approval from the Center for Simulations & Virtual Environments Research (UCSIM) to conduct research projects using UC’s virtual campuses in Second Life, Opensim, or Unity3D, and both UCSIM and the UC Office of Information Technology must be credited/acknowledged as a contributor to any research and/or resulting publications undertaken on or using UCSIM resources.
Ready to speak with one of our staff? Contact us today to get started on your research project!