Ethical Standards

Institutional Review Board

Population Council research is grounded in the highest ethical standards, including safeguarding the rights and welfare of the individuals who participate in studies. Our methodologies are approved by an Institutional Review Board (IRB). All Council investigators involved in studies reviewed by the IRB must provide proof of completion of a recent, approved ethical training course.

The Council’s IRB has 12 members, whose expertise includes bioethics, biomedical engineering, demography, health care, HIV and AIDS, international relations, law, obstetrics/gynecology, physiology, public policy, regulatory affairs, and social psychology. The board meets six times per year.

In addition to the IRB, the Population Council’s general counsel and secretary and its global head of regulatory affairs and quality assurance ensure compliance with international standards and all applicable laws and regulations in countries in which research activities are conducted.

As well as ensuring that our research is conducted with maximum adherence to ethical standards, Council researchers contribute to the peer-reviewed literature on ethical research and improve methodologies to secure informed consent from volunteers in clinical trials.

Gender Equality

Gender equality is central to the Population Council’s mission. Defined as differences in the roles, behaviors, and opportunities that societies and families consider appropriate for males and females, gender is not the same as biological differences by sex. People often experience differences in power in their societies and families by virtue of their gender. The Council promotes the rights of all people of all gender identities.

As part of our commitment to ethical research, project data are gender/sex-disaggregated where appropriate. The collection, management, and analysis of gender/sex-disaggregated data are key to informing policies and programs that promote gender equality as an outcome, and strive for gender-equitable inclusion. Council researchers tailor and pilot-test survey questions that cover gender and sex to locally appropriate standards, including options for self-identification beyond the male-female binary, in settings where local partners endorse this. 

Our research works to understand how gender intersects with other dimensions of social and economic exclusion or inclusion, including disability, education, caste/ethnicity/race, religion, and socioeconomic status.   

The Council promotes openly accessible gender/sex-disaggregated data through our GIRL Center’s Adolescent Data Hub, a clearinghouse for open access data on adolescents, and via our Dataverse. Beyond expanding access to gender/sex-disaggregated data, the Council also curates and shares scales through the Gender and Power Metrics Database that researchers can include in their surveys to better capture how gender shapes people’s experiences.

Academic Freedom

The Population Council is committed to the fundamental principles of academic freedom and editorial independence that underpin the pursuit of knowledge in research. The Council follows the guidelines published by the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE). We work to ensure responsible conduct of research; inquiry, open expression, and reasoned opposition; and the publication of findings. The Council publishes two scholarly journals which are members of COPE.