Monday, October 6, 2008

A Conscientious Objector

In a column in the Hastings Center's Bioethics Forum, historian and ethicist Alice Dreger explains why she declines to submit oral history proposals to IRBs:

To remain “unprotected” by my university’s IRB system—to remain vulnerable—is to remain highly aware of my obligations to those I interview for my work. Without the supposed “protection” of my IRB, I am aware of how, if I hurt my interviewees, they might well want to hurt me back. At some level, I think it best for my subjects that I keep my kneecaps exposed.

Compare this stance to the position put forward by Charles Bosk in 2004:

Prospective review strikes me as generally one more inane bureaucratic requirement in one more bureaucratic set of procedures, ill-suited to accomplish the goals that it is intended to serve. Prospective review, flawed a process as it is, does not strike me as one social scientists should resist.

Who takes research ethics more seriously: the researcher who submits to inane requirements, or the researcher who resists?

For more on Dreger's work, see The Psychologist Who Would Be Journalist.

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