Saturday, July 25, 2009

Oral History Update

Linda Shopes revises and expands her 2007 essay, "Negotiating Institutional Review Boards" in a page on the Oral History Association website.

Shopes, who spent years negotiating with federal officials, now despairs of that route: "After more than a decade of largely ineffective advocacy vis-à-vis OHRP and its predecessor, oral historians are not likely to gain many concessions from federal regulators."

I must agree with Shopes's pessimism. As Michael Carome conceded in October 2008, OHRP has taken action on only a handful of the 147 recommendations put forward by the Secretary's Advisory Committee on Human Research Protections. If regulators cannot or will not implement the recommendations of their own official advisory body, they are unlikely to prove more responsive to the concerns of a group of scholars whom they have ignored for years.

Instead of looking to OHRP for relief, Shopes suggests that "if we must live within a regulatory system that is, at best, incongruent with our ways of working, perhaps the best we can do is work within our individual institutions to develop a measure of mutual accommodation." She notes the progress historians have made at Amherst, Columbia, UMKC, Michigan, and Nebraska. Here's hoping the next update of her essay has a longer list.

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