Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Tolich Launches TEAR: The Ethics Application Repository

Professor Martin Tolich of the University of Otago (New Zealand) has launched TEAR: The Ethics Application Repository.

The site explains:

TEAR is long overdue. Few novice IRB (ethics committee) applications are approved on their first reading leading to multiple resubmissions delaying the commencement of research. Novices forced to reinvent the ethics wheel from scratch, creates, at best, a fear of dealing with the processes around ethics rather than engaging in thinking about ethical principles. At worst, many supervisors get students to avoid IRB review and conduct secondary analysis. The latter students fail to learn how to think ethically. What they do learn is ethical cynicism: IRBs are to be avoided if possible.

TEAR sets out to break this cycle of fear and avoidance facilitating better relationships between researchers and their IRBs in the short and long term. Current practice sees IRBs as a singular compliance moment in a linear process. TEAR promotes a new role for IRBs: they can become part of an iterative ethics review cycle but only if the IRB approval process is less daunting.

TEAR does not promote a filling in the boxes mentality when seeking approval from an IRB . . . TEAR’s goal is to facilitate sound ethical practice by allowing novice researchers to read how scholars have described the pathways used to protect their research subjects from harm. For example, guidelines on how to research children found on IRB webpages are useful only up to a point. TEAR believes that reading multiple examples of best practice can promote best practice for novice researchers allowing them to compare and contrast their project with donated exemplars.

This strikes me as a promising implementation of an idea floated by Alex Halavais and others.

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