Friday, July 20, 2012

Geographer: Unnecessary IRB Delay Threatens NSF Grants

In the fifth and final Professional Geographer essay, Scott M. Freundschuh, Professor of Geography at the University of New Mexico, notes that many IRBs "unnecessarily require research protocols to be reviewed by the full IRB, therefore impeding the progress of research projects." Rather than suggesting structural changes to the IRB system, he counsels geographers to work within existing rules.

[Scott M. Freundschuh, "Institutional Review for Research in the Social Sciences from the Federal Perspective," Professional Geographer 64, no. 1 (2012): 43-48, DOI:10.1080/00330124.2011.596791]

Thursday, July 19, 2012

IRB Chair Denies Being a Vampire

Patricia Price, a geographer and IRB chair at Florida International University, assures us that her board is not "a malevolent, vampirish entity."

[Patricia L. Price, "Geography, Me, and the IRB: From Roadblock to Resource," Professional Geographer 64, no. 1 (2012): 34-42, DOI:10.1080/00330124.2011.596789]

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Can Macalester's Divisional Review Work Elsewhere?

In his contribution to the Professional Geographer special issue, Dan Trudeau of Macalester College writes that "IRBs can be a pedagogical asset, particularly if institutional review practices cultivate the habits of mind and strategies necessary for engaged and reflexive research." The key, his article suggests, may be the devolution of review to specialized committees rather than the general-purpose IRBs that are the norm. But Trudeau does not stress the degree to which Macalester's sucess depends on its departure from federal standards.

[Dan Trudeau, "IRBs as Asset for Ethics Education in Geography," Professional Geographer 64, no. 1 (2012): 25-33, DOI: 10.1080/00330124.2011.596786.]

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Common Rule Is "Out of Place" on the Streets of Bogotá

In the second article in the Professional Geographer special issue, Amy Ritterbusch argues that "when lives are at risk, socially and politically responsible action in the field becomes the driving force of human subjects protection," but that "standard human subjects protection procedures often pull initial field relations in the opposite direction, establishing distance and difference between the researcher and research population through a temporally and spatially restrictive web of institutional categorizations and paperwork that predefine participants’ identities and role in the research project."

She finds that "Although well intentioned, 45 CFR 46 is a bureaucratic discourse that positions youth in problematic ways and is out of place in the world of Bogotana street girls."

[Amy Ritterbusch, “Bridging Guidelines and Practice: Toward a Grounded Care Ethics in Youth Participatory Action Research,” Professional Geographer 64, no. 1 (2012): 16–24, DOI: 10.1080/00330124.2011.596783.]

Monday, July 16, 2012

IRB Sought to Monitor Interviews with Elected Officials

The first article in the Professional Geographer special issue argues that the IRB system assumes that the researcher is a "powerful, knowing agent who assembles a scientific methodology that is always of potential harm to the researched," while subjects are always "less knowing" and vulnerable. As a result, scholars "face the presumption of guilt while seeking to prove innocence in the IRB process of application, negotiation, and usually, but not painlessly, final approval to conduct research."

[Deborah G. Martin and Joshua Inwood. “Subjectivity, Power, and the IRB,” Professional Geographer 64, no. 1 (2012): 7–15, DOI:10.1080/00330124.2011.596781.]

Friday, July 13, 2012

IRB Chair: "Human Subjects Oversight Is Here to Stay"

Back in September 2011, I noted that the Professional Geographer had posted a focus section on IRBs (it appeared in print in February 2012). At the time I was too busy reading and writing ANPRM responses to comment on the six items in the focus section, but with the luxury of summer I can now do so. Today, I start with the introduction.

Ironically, given its appearance at that moment of regulatory upheaval, the introduction to the focus section dismisses the possibility of regulatory reform.

[Patricia L. Price, "Introduction: Protecting Human Subjects Across the Geographic Research Process," Professional Geographer 64:1 (2012), 1-6, DOI: 10.1080/00330124.2011.596780.]

Thursday, July 12, 2012

SAGE Insight Posts "The Case Against Ethics Review"

My Research Ethics article, "The Case Against Ethics Review in the Social Sciences," has been posted on the SAGE Insight blog. This means you can read it free. Thanks, SAGE!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

First Circuit Rejects Belfast Project Historians' Appeal

On Friday, July 6, the First Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the effort by two oral historians to block the release of interviews of participants in Northern Ireland's Troubles, archived as the Belfast Project at Boston College's Burns Library.

Citing precedent, especially Branzburg v. Hayes, 408 U.S. 665 (1972), the court majority found that "the choice to investigate criminal activity belongs to the government and is not subject to veto by academic researchers."

[In re Request from United Kingdom, Nos. 11-2511, 12-1159, --- F.3d ----, 2012 WL 2628046 (1st Cir. July 06, 2012)]

In a concurrence, Judge Juan Torruella is more sympathetic to the researchers, arguing that academic researchers are entitled to "a degree of protection" and possess "a cognizable interest under the First Amendment." However, he continues, "any such interest has been weighed and measured by the Supreme Court and found insufficient to overcome the government's paramount concerns in the present context."

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Harvard Law Today Reports on ANPRM Conference

Harvard Law Today, published by Harvard Law School, reports on May's conference on the ANPRM, held at the school's Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics.

["The Future of Human Subjects Research Regulation," Harvard Law Today, July 2012.]

The article highlights the plenary address by Greg Koski, former director of OHRP.

Koski said regulation has been dominated by human-subject protectionism and an ethical-review system that has “devolved to regulatory compliance oversight.” The result, he said, is a system that is “inefficient and burdensome.” His recommendation, he said, was to replace the current system with one modeled after medical training and certification.

He said: “If we were able to develop a paradigm of professionalism in human research, it would likely be every bit as effective, less costly, less burdensome and more efficient than the protectionist, compliance-focused system that we are now seeking to reform. I would argue that reform of our current system is perhaps not the most appropriate or even adequate approach to try to achieve the goals that we seek.”

Monday, July 9, 2012

Sociologists of Sexuality Voice IRB Complaints

Sociologist Janice Irvine finds that IRBs "play a significant but largely unnoticed role in the marginalization of sexuality research," and that "the IRB closet obstructs a broad production of sexual knowledge—not simply about identities and communities, but also about a range of sexual acts, desires, and attitudes."

[Janice M. Irvine, "Can't Ask, Can't Tell : How Insitutional Review Boards Keep Sex In The Closet," Contexts 2012 11: 28, DOI: 10.1177/1536504212446457. The story has been picked up by the Chronicle of Higher Education: Dan Berrett, "Review Boards Force Sex Research Into the Closet, Survey Suggests," Chronicle of Higher Education, 28 June 2012.]

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Emmerich Reviews Behind Closed Doors and Ethical Imperialism

Nathan Emmerich of Queen's University, Belfast, finds that Laura Stark's book and my own "together . . . illustrate the nature of ethics as an aspect of research governance fundamentally contributing to our understanding of the phenomena in a manner that goes beyond the relatively limited or restricted consideration offered by applied ethical analysis."

[Nathan Emmerich, Review of Behind Closed Doors: IRBs and the Making of Ethical Research and Ethical Imperialism: Institutional Review Boards and the Social Sciences, 1965-2009, Sociological Research Online 17, Issue 2 (May 2012).]