Monday, July 21, 2014

Most IRB Chairs Can't Recognize Exempt Research or Non-Research

A study of criminal justice researchers' knowledge of IRB rules has found that IRB chairs can't agree on what makes a project exempt from review and think that IRB review is needed for public records. The authors of the study, one of whom is an IRB chair, seem not to realize the significance of these findings.

[Tartaro, Christine, and Marissa P. Levy. "Criminal Justice Professionals' Knowledge of Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) and Compliance with IRB Protocol." Journal of Criminal Justice Education 25, no. 3 (2014): 321–41. doi:10.1080/10511253.2014.902982.]

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

UCSD Frees Oral History and Journalism

The University of California, San Diego, has determined that most projects by historians and journalists need not be submitted to the IRB.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

New Book on Human Subjects Research Regulation

MIT Press has published Human Subjects Research Regulation: Perspectives on the Future, eds. I. Glenn Cohen and Holly Fernandez Lynch.

The volume emerges from the May 2012 conference, "The Future of Human Subjects Regulation," sponsored by the Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics at Harvard Law School. (See Against Armchair Ethics: Some Reflections from Petrie-Flom.)

My own contribution is a chapter entitled, "What Is This Thing Called Research?" I have a preliminary version online at SSRN.

Though published three years after the ANPRM, the book has hit print before an NPRM. Pity.

Friday, July 11, 2014

A Reply to Maxine Robertson

In an essay in Research Ethics, Maxine Robertson, Professor of Innovation and Organisation at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL), responds to my essay, "The case against ethics review in the social sciences," published in the same journal in 2011. I wish she had responded to more of the broader ethics-review critique and offered more details about ethics review at her own institution.

[Robertson, Maxine. “The Case for Ethics Review in the Social Sciences: Drawing from Practice at Queen Mary University of London.” Research Ethics 10, no. 2 (June 2014): 69–76. doi:10.1177/1747016113511177]

Microsoft Seeks Ethics Review Without Bottlenecks and Frustration

Duncan Watts of Microsoft Research announces Microsoft will soon launch "an ethics-review process for human-subject research designed explicitly for web-based research." Could such a process avoid the pitfalls of the IRB?

[Watts, Duncan J. “Lessons Learned From the Facebook Study.” Chronicle of Higher Education Blogs: The Conversation, July 9, 2014. h/t Rebecca Tushnet]

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Those Noisy Voices from the Grave

This afternoon I had the pleasure of speaking on the Kojo Nnamdi Show about the Belfast Project (a.k.a. Boston College’s Oral History Archive on the Troubles in Northern Ireland) and its impact on oral history. I didn't have a lot of time, but I tried to make the case for a shield law, analogous to the protections provided to health research and DOJ-sponsored criminal justice research.

[“Old Wounds & Oral History: The Aftermath of the Belfast Project,” Kojo Nnamdi Show, July 7, 2014.]

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Computer Scientist: Informed Consent is the Wrong Metaphor

Michael Bernstein, assistant professor of computer science at Stanford and a former postdoctoral scholar on Facebook’s Data Science team, argues that "Hammering ethical protocols designed for laboratory studies onto internet experimentation is fundamentally misguided."

[Bernstein, Michael. “The Destructive Silence of Social Computing Researchers.” Medium, July 7, 2014. https://medium.com/@msbernst/9155cdff659.]

Monday, June 30, 2014

A Bit of Historical Perspective on the Facebook Flap

IRBs and behavioral research are all over the news, as a result of a paper that manipulated the news feeds of 689,003 Facebook users.

[Kramer, Adam D. I., Jamie E. Guillory, and Jeffrey T. Hancock. “Experimental Evidence of Massive-Scale Emotional Contagion through Social Networks.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 111, no. 24 (June 17, 2014): 8788–90. doi:10.1073/pnas.1320040111.]

Michelle Meyer has posted a detailed analysis of the regulatory context, explaining multiple ways a project like this could have been approved. She concludes that "so long as we allow private entities freely to engage in these practices, we ought not unduly restrain academics trying to determine their effects."

[Meyer, Michelle N. “How an IRB Could Have Legitimately Approved the Facebook Experiment—and Why That May Be a Good Thing.” The Faculty Lounge, June 29, 2014. http://www.thefacultylounge.org/2014/06/how-an-irb-could-have-legitimately-approved-the-facebook-experimentand-why-that-may-be-a-good-thing.html.]

I have little to add to Meyer's excellent post, except a bit of historical perspective. Psychological experiments—whether in the lab, in the field, or online—fall outside my main area of concern, but perhaps I can offer a few relevant points.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

TCPS Envy

How good is TCPS2, Canada's current framework of research regulation?

Martin Tolich, with co-authors, thinks it's pretty good. He suggests that at the very least, it can serve as a starting point for other countries interested in reforming their systems of research ethics oversight to make them more responsive to the concerns of social scientists and the people they study.

[Tolich, M, and BP Smith. “Evolving Ethics envy—New Zealand Sociologists Reading the Canadian Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans.” KĊtuitui: New Zealand Journal of Social Sciences Online 9, no. 1 (2014): 1–10. doi:10.1080/1177083X.2013.867513; Hoonaard, Will C. van den, and Martin Tolich. “The New Brunswick Declaration of Research Ethics: A Simple and Radical Perspective.” Canadian Journal of Sociology 39, no. 1 (March 31, 2014): 87 – 98]

Friday, May 2, 2014

Canada: When the Subpoena Comes, Universities Should Pay for Independent Legal Advice

In guidance issued in April 2014, the Secretariat on Responsible Conduct of Research finds that "In situations where safeguarding participant information may involve resisting an attempt by legal means to compel disclosure of confidential research information, TCPS 2 requires institutions to provide researchers with financial and other support to obtain independent legal advice or to ensure that such support is provided."

The announcement does not explicitly say so, but I imagine this is somehow a response to the University of Ottawa's earlier refusal to pay the legal costs of researchers who faced a subpoena. On the other hand, the new guidance addresses only "legal advice," not representation.