Monday, October 22, 2007

Brown U. IRB Chair: System is Broken

Ross Frazier of the Brown Daily Herald reports that Brown's "faculty are yet again pushing for change" in the human subjects review system there. ("As IRB Debate Grows, Profs Push for Reform," 16 October 2007).

Frazier reports the views of Ron Seifer, professor of psychiatry:

Seifer, the IRB chair, acknowledged the system is "fundamentally flawed and broken," adding that, "They are being asked to do something they were never intended to do."

Seifer told the class that the IRBs around the country have expanded their reach because of federal bureaucrats and a community of university research administrators who have created a culture of avoiding risk.

Those factors "all exist within very frightened university environments. They're afraid of lawsuits, and they are afraid of donors going away," Seifer said.

As reported by Frazier, senior Brown administrators seem unwilling either to defend the current system or to reform it, preferring instead to keep discussion of the issue off official agendas.

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