[“Social Sciences Paper Retracted for Lack of Ethical Approval.” Retraction Watch, February 25, 2013. http://retractionwatch.wordpress.com/2013/02/25/social-sciences-paper-retracted-for-lack-of-ethical-approval/; Goldade, Kate, and Kolawole S. Okuyemi. “RETRACTED: Deservingness to State Health Services for South–South Migrants: A Preliminary Study of Costa Rican Providers’ Views.” Social Science & Medicine 74, no. 6 (March 2012): 882–886. doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2011.06.045.]
The details of the case are murky. The official retraction states that
This article has been retracted at the request of the Editors-in-Chief.IRB aficionados know that one secures informed consent from one's subjects or participants, not one's institution. So whoever wrote the retraction notice appears unfamiliar with regulatory terminology.
The article is based on work that was undertaken without obtaining prior informed consent to conduct human subjects research from the Author's institution. The scientific community takes a very strong view on any ethical infringement in the conduct of research and apologies are offered to readers of the journal that this was not brought to our attention prior to publication.
To add to the puzzle, the authors of the piece seem to have been aware of IRB rules, for the article clearly states that "Ethical approval for the research was obtained from the Institutional Review Board at the University of Arizona," where Goldade earned her PhD. Retraction Watch explains that
The editors of the journal tell us that while the notice says the retraction was their request, Goldade — whom we have not been able to reach for comment — asked for it first. We’ve asked the University of Arizona how the lack of IRB approval became clear, and will update with anything we learn.
Goldade’s co-author, Kola Okuyemie, who leads the University of Minnesota’s program in health disparities, said through the university that he only interpreted the data and developed the manuscript, so did not have anything to do with the work related to the IRB approval.
Finally, while it's hard to read the article with the word "RETRACTED" pasted in big red letters across the text, nothing that I could find explained why this project would not be exempt from IRB review under 45 CFR 46.101(b)(2). The interviewers seem to have asked health care providers about their views of "state responsibility for non-citizens within its territory," with such question as “What services do you think that migrants deserve even if they are undocumented?”
Had the investigators sought information about health care providers' decision to offer more or less care than was legally permissible or required, I can see how the answers "could reasonably place the subjects at risk of criminal or civil liability or be damaging to the subjects' financial standing, employability, or reputation." But interviews with competent adults about their political beliefs should not trigger IRB jurisdiction.