Monday, May 7, 2007

PRIM&R Finds Another Social Researcher

On April 13, I noted that the preliminary faculty list for this week's "Social, Behavioral, Educational Research Conference" included only one social researcher among twenty faculty. One of the conference's organizers, Jeffrey Cohen, replied that "the final list will have more social scientists." Well, the final list includes one more researcher: Steven Pennell, Survey Director, University of Michigan. Since the total list has been expanded to 33 faculty, this brings the representation of social researchers from five percent up to six percent. Many of the panels will feature no such representation at all.

The conference announcement asks, "Why is it often so difficult for IRBs and investigators to work together effectively when reviewing sophisticated, socially sensitive social/behavioral/educational research?" One answer might be PRIM&R's apparent belief that IRB administrators can learn to regulate research without hearing from researchers.


Jeffrey Cohen said...

I don't understand why you continue to criticize a program designed to explain and encourage the use of the flexibility available in the regulation and to promote communication and collaboration between IRBs and investigators to facilitate research. If you were to talk to any of the over 400 people who attended the conference you would hear that this message came through loud and clear, including from the ORHP representatives that were there. I can only conclude that you have no interest in making IRB review work better for researchers, but only in eliminating IRB review for your research.

With regard to the faculty, there were 12 researchers out of 33 on the faculty, including psychologists, sociologists, social workers and epidemiologists (who are social scientists). Most of the rest of the faculty were IRB administrators from institutions that primarily review social and behavioral research. Admittedly, we didn't have faculty from all areas of the social and behavioral research and no one from oral history (although I did ask you to come). We were limited by the dates of the conference and those researchers who were available. The members of the planning committee contacted many more researchers to participate, but most were not able to make it. If you have any suggestions for faculty for the fall PRIM&R meeting, we'd be happy to consider them.

The concerns of oral historians and other researchers received considerable airing and discussion at the conference, including from Tina Gunsalus, the conference co-chair.

Zachary M. Schrag said...

Thanks for these comments.

I am glad the conference went well, and I will look forward to reports from researchers at hundreds of institutions that their IRBs are offering greater flexibility.

While I am waiting, I have responded to your comments at greater length in a new post: PRIM&R's Public Responsibilities.