Saturday, December 23, 2006

A thousand cuts

Many complaints about the IRB regime, such as the AAUP's recent report, focus on extreme cases where IRBs delayed or prohibited research. 10-Year-Plan, a graduate student's blog, describes a more typical problem, the loss of time even when an application is eventually approved or ruled exempt:
I spent a good deal of time this semester working on an IRB application. My dissertation research includes a good deal of oral history. Some of these are taped and archived in libraries across the country. However, most of what I am interested in, (girls' lives, gender-related issues) cannot be found in traditional archives. So, in the best-case scenario, I will be conducting oral histories myself . . .

The official word is that oral history is NOT regulated by the IRB--as long as events covered in interviews are confined to the past. However, there is some argument as to whether or non-regulated status is going to stay. In addition, the American Historical Association encourages all graduate students to clear their oral history projects just in case. In case of what, I am not certain. The chair of our department agrees and so, I embarked on the application process.

The application is long and tedious. NO, I will not inject my subjects with any substances. I am doing no testing of DNA...

Anyway, I found out today that they gave me the status of "not regulated" which means I don't have to change anything! And I don't have to re-apply next year! Happy Holidays, me.
Happy Holidays, LaKisha. The AHA was right to warn you; some IRBs would strip you of your degree if you did not follow their procedures. But your IRB has robbed you of valuable time. Had it published its criteria for what is and is not regulated, you could have avoided the time-consuming application.

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