Tuesday, March 15, 2011

AAHRPP and PRIM&R Plan Conferences

Both the Association for the Accreditation of Human Research Protection Programs, Inc ., (AAHRPP) and Public Responsibility in Medicine and Research (PRIM&R) plan conferences next month. AAHRPP's conference, "Breaking Down Barriers, will be held in Washington, April 6-8, then PRIM&R meets in Boston, April 28-29, for a "Social, Behavioral & Educational Research Conference."

Federal officials will participate in both conferences. The AAHRPP kicks off with an address by OHRP's director, Jerry Menikoff, and will include presentations from other representatives of OHRP as well as the departments of Defense, Education, Energy, Justice, Veterans Affairs, the EPA, FDA, and--most intriguingly from my view--an as yet unnamed official from the National Science Foundation who will discuss "Ethical Issues in Social Science Research."

PRIM&R will feature a keynote by OHRP's Ivor Pritchard as well as a session entitled "Talk to the Feds: A Dialogue with the Office for Human Research Protections," in which "OHRP staff talk about how the regulations and guidelines apply to SBER IRBs, including questions about implementing the recently issued OHPR guidances on continuing review and conditional approval. Attendees are encouraged to come with questions that will be of interest to all."

From what I understand, it is not unusual for federal regulatory officials to speak at conferences sponsored by the industries they oversee. But larger industries have an established trade press that will cover pronouncements by key officials.

It is not clear that statements by federal officials at either conference will be made public beyond the fragmentary accounts of the sort we have gotten in the past. The question, then, is whether someone who doesn't want to spend $575 for the AAHRPP conference or $835 for PRIM&R can find out what federal officials think the Common Rule means.

Thanks to Theresa Defino and Ada Sue Selwitz for alerting me to these conferences.


Anonymous said...

As someone who serves on an IRB I agree with you about PRIM&R's fees. Members who registered earlier could have done it a little cheaper than the figure you quoted but the cost is still expensive compared to comparable conferences. Last week they sent an amusing e-mail to conference participants asking for volunteer "Conference Greeters & Keynote/Plenary Session Ushers" and "PRIM&R Exhibit Booth Attendants" among other things.

To the best of my knowledge OHRP always has a Talk to the Feds session at PRIM&R conferences, and quite appropriately. Other agencies have similar sessions depending on the PRIM&R conference but in the past there have been sessions involving NSF, VA, FDA, DoD, and NIH. Unlike some of the other sessions these are not recorded for later access, presumably because they aren't formal presentations. They are basically an opportunity for people to ask Federal officials whatever they want and have them respond.

Zachary M. Schrag said...

Thanks for this comment.

I do not think it appropriate for public officials to offer these sessions at expensive conferences when they have proven so slow to respond to letters from scholarly associations, Freedom of Information Act queries, and comments submitted in response to notices in the Federal Register. At the very least, PRIM&R and AAHRPP should record the sessions and make the freely recordings available to the public.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand how not having these sessions, where they answer audience questions, helps address the issue you have with their degree of responsiveness. All it would do is make them less accessible.

OHRP staff also make themselves available at their own workshops around--which are free-- and various other events that are much more affordable than PRIM&R-organized events.

Zachary M. Schrag said...

The snarky answer would be that OHRP officials should stay home and use their time to respond to the Federal Register comments that have been sitting on the shelf since 2007.

More realistically, I would like transcripts of the sessions made public. Keep in mind that we are talking about an agency that has not issued a press release since 2008.