Friday, April 29, 2016

Political Scientists Consider "Local Control and Realities" and IRB Oversight

The April issue of PS: Political Science & Politics features several items about political science and IRBs. Here’s a list; commentary will follow if I find the time.


University Research and Journalism: Distinctions Without Differences

Google Scholar belatedly alerts me a 2014 article in which two philosophers of education seek to distinguish investigative journalism from university-sponsored community research. They suggest it makes sense to require IRB oversight of the latter but not the former, but their arguments rest on factually doubtful claims of uncertain relevance, and they fail to show that IRB oversight makes sense for either type of research.


[Anne Newman and Ronald David Glass, “Comparing Ethical and Epistemic Standards for Investigative Journalists and Equity-Oriented Collaborative Community-Based Researchers: Why Working for a University Matters,” Journal of Higher Education 85, no. 3 (2014): 283–311, doi:10.1353/jhe.2014.0013.]

Thursday, April 28, 2016

U of Maryland Scapegoats IRB and Researcher for PR Foul Up

The University of Maryland has released a report on the problematic December 2015 press release, which included unsubstantiated claims about the benefits of a sports drink based on chocolate milk. While the press release was indeed a disaster, the university report fails to hold to account the people most responsible. Instead, it makes matters worse by accusing the researcher and the IRB of transgressions they did not commit, and by recommending drastic changes that are unnecessary and burdensome.


Sunday, April 17, 2016

The Cost of Ethical Review, Part III: Hindering HIV Prevention

Risk-averse IRBs are hindering potentially life-saving research, write Brian Mustanski and Celia Fisher. “Critical advances in HIV prevention among AMSM [adolescent men who have sex with men],” they note, “have been impeded by the failure of IRBs to apply federal regulations permitting adolescents to self-consent to research without parental involvement.”


[Mustanski, B., & Fisher, C. B. (2016). HIV Rates Are Increasing in Gay/Bisexual Teens: IRB Barriers to Research Must Be Resolved to Bend the Curve. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, In Press. doi:10.1016/j.amepre.2016.02.026.]

Monday, April 11, 2016

Wynn Calls for Department-Level Review of Student Research

L. L. Wynn, an anthropologist at Macquarie University and a member of that university’s Human Research Ethics Committee, spoke to 40 teachers and administrators at 14 Australian universities. She finds that “opportunities for independent undergraduate human research are being eroded by expanding ethics bureaucracies” and that “the ethics review process [is] a significant obstacle to universities and teachers who wish to incorporate original human research into the curriculum.” (7) She calls for the devolution of ethics review to individual departments.


[L. L. Wynn, “The Impact of Ethics Review on a Research-Led University Curriculum Results of a Qualitative Study in Australia,” Journal of Empirical Research on Human Research Ethics, Published online before print, March 16, 2016, doi:10.1177/1556264616636234.]


Thursday, April 7, 2016

Oral Historians as Ethical Proofreaders

Kevin Bradley and Anisa Puri of the Australian Generations Oral History Project explain that the ethical challenges they faced came after they had conducted the interviews.


[Kevin Bradley and Anisa Puri, “Creating an Oral History Archive: Digital Opportunities and Ethical Issues,” Australian Historical Studies 47, no. 1 (2016): 75–91, doi:10.1080/1031461X.2015.1122072.]


Thursday, March 31, 2016

IRB Manager Laments “Unhappy Marriage” with Ethnography

Writing for Contexts, Abigail Cameron, an IRB manager for the Texas State Department of Health Services, laments that “IRBs and ethnographers often ‘talk past each other’ resulting in confusion, delays, and frustration—i.e., a very unhappy marriage.” She rightly blames faulty federal regulations as the prime cause of this unhappiness, yet she downplays IRB misbehavior as a contributing factor.


[Abigail E. Cameron, “The Unhappy Marriage of IRBs and Ethnography,” Contexts, accessed March 24, 2016, h/t Rob Townsend.]

Monday, March 21, 2016

First, Do Some Harm, Part IV: Fake Submission to Fake Conference Yields Fake Charge of Misconduct

Professor Jim Vander Putten, who spent six years as chair of the University of Arkansas Little Rock (UALR) IRB, is now charged with violating university rules by conducting research without that board’s approval. The case highlights several problems with the current system, most notably its failure to provide standards for studies designed to expose misbehavior.


[Peter Schmidt, “A Scholar’s Sting of Education Conferences Stirs a Hornet’s Nest,” Chronicle of Higher Education, March 14, 2016, paywalled.]

Saturday, March 19, 2016

New Book: The Ethics Rupture

The University of Toronto Press has published The Ethics Rupture: Exploring Alternatives to Formal Research-Ethics Review, edited by Will C. van den Hoonaard and Ann Hamilton. My chapter is entitled, “Ethical Pluralism: Scholarly Societies and the Regulation of Research Ethics.”

Monday, February 8, 2016

Fifty Years of IRBs

As has been widely not reported, today marks the fiftieth anniversary the issuance of U.S. Public Health Service Policy and Procedure Order (PPO) #129, which mandated that each recipient of a PHS grant involving human beings secure prior review by “a committee of his institutional associates.” From this document flowed all subsequent IRB policies, in the United States and in several other countries.


To honor the occasion, I have posted a PDF of the order on my page of IRB documents.


(Not really. A correspondent was looking for a copy, and I posted it for her.)