I hope you are well and thank you for your thoughtful comments / questions. I asked @LVep to join me in answering this, so this is a collaborative response
The question about whether volunteers are researchers or participants in the research is a very good one and we tried to show in our article that the answer is not straight forward when it comes to online citizen science and human computation precisely because volunteers can take different and sometimes also multiple roles. So in each new context, roles have to be explained and options given. We argue that this is currently not considered enough and that systems and also review processes have to be more flexible to take into account that the roles can vary. This means that we completely agree with your argument that different types of ethical review are necessary in the different contexts.
With the “sandbox” we refer to an environment where a clone of a project such as Stall Catchers can be run to conduct experiments without affecting the project itself. For example, the study you participated in and mentioned in your comment was conducted in the “sandbox”, which is why it had a different look and feel.
Thank you for your question about the flow chart and the order of the different steps. It is indeed difficult to define a strict sequence of steps due to various interdependencies (for example, a certain response at one step might cause us to return to a previous step). But the idea is that if a new project has to be reviewed by an IRB expert, then the IRB expert can access the sandbox to test the project itself and understand the individual steps and processes of the project (that’s the flowchart the expert is thinking about in our flow chart). If questions come up the IRB expert can easily contact the researcher and ask questions or discuss aspects with them (it’s a dialogue - speech bubbles in the flow chart). One important new aspect of the proposed IRB process is that the community, which consists of citizen science participants, researchers, project designers and other involved parties, defines what values are important to them and these values are then included into the ethical guidelines (arrow from community to ethical guidelines in flow chart). This means that the ethical guidelines consider the project- and context specific needs of all involved parties – especially the needs of the volunteers – and are dynamic, that is, they are adapted over time with changing values and norms. So if an unforeseen situation arises that doesn’t fit our current ethics, the community weighs in on what to do about it. The IRB expert then evaluates the project based on these ethical guidelines, informed by the community (arrow from ethical guidelines to IRB expert).
If an aspect comes up in a project to be reviewed by the IRB expert, which is not addressed in the current set of ethical guidelines, then the IRB expert can contact the community to review the issues properly (arrow from community to IRB expert in flow chart).
Moreover the system logs the (ethical) issues that arise and the ensuing dialog around those issues, as well as any implemented solutions. The protocol repository not only allows researchers to use designs and approaches that have already been approved (save time, minimize redundancy in review processes) but it can also be accessed by e.g., the community (arrow from repository to community).
Although we cannot provide a precise order of the individual steps, we hope that this explanation clarifies the procedures.
Thanks again for your engagement and for these great questions!
Pietro and Libi