Wednesday, August 27, 2014

You Can't Ask That

The Washington Monthly's fall college issue features my essay on IRBs. Nothing that will surprise regular readers of this blog, but perhaps this will reach new readers.

[Schrag, Zachary M. “You Can’t Ask That.” Washington Monthly, September/October 2014.]

Monday, August 25, 2014

Bell: Ethnography Shouldn't Be Like Victorian Sex

Writing in American Anthropologist, Kirsten Bell argues that ethnography should not be seen as a violation to which an informant must consent, and "although the concept of informed consent has now been enshrined in the AAA Code of Ethics for more than 15 years, the reality is that it is not an appropriate standard with which to judge ethnographic fieldwork."

[Bell, Kirsten. "Resisting Commensurability: Against Informed Consent as an Anthropological Virtue." American Anthropologist, July 21, 2014, doi:10.1111/aman.12122.]

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.