Thursday, December 15, 2011

Veterans Denied Chance to Comment on Foreign Policy

In a comment on Alex Halavais's blog post on IRBs, Wynn W. Gadkar-Wilcox of Western Connecticut State University relates a horror story:

I will never forget a case from several years ago in which we were asked to approve a study that asked veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan their opinion of the foreign policy of the Bush administration, and the study was denied because of fears that the question might trigger PTSD. Ridiculous. If that study triggers post-traumatic stress, then vets should never be allowed to take history or political science courses.

We need to remember that this kind of IRB abuse diminishes not only the freedom of researchers, but also the freedom of participants--in this case veterans denied the chance to comment on national policy--and of all who can benefit from research.

Gadkar-Wilcox, who identifies himself as "a long-time member of an IRB," also notes that "sometimes IRB’s do important work, such as when they prevent (in one case I remember) the distribution of a non-anonymous survey to students that asked them to reveal potentially illegal conduct. In general, though, there is plenty of overregulation."

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