[Tolich, Martin, and Emma Tumilty. “Making Ethics Review a Learning Institution: The Ethics Application Repository Proof of Concept. Tear.otago.ac.nz.” Qualitative Research (January 3, 2013). doi:10.1177/1468794112468476.]
The problem, they note, was that IRBs are not set up to learn or to teach.
Each month, IRB Chair Tolich saw applicants, especially novice researchers stumble through the IRB application process struggling with their clash of theory, methodology and ethical principles without much guidance. If ethics committees were a learning institution, they would have identified and posted common problems and their solutions and supplied templates of appropriate permissions for others to mirror. Examples of strategies used to ensure safety both in complex situations like data archiving or of vulnerable participants, as well as models of best practice for often occurring issues, could be identified and pooled as in data sharing initiatives. In lieu of these innovations, ethics committee members went on saying, as they do, 'when will researchers ever learn'. But how can they learn? Where are the resources? TEAR establishes a precedent.
The solution is TEAR, "an array of special collections of IRB applications that addressed specific topics that qualitative researchers see as ethical hotspots."
TEAR’s goal is to pool resources and facilitate sound ethical practice by allowing both novice researchers and their supervisors (who may be a novice on a specific topic) to read how scholars have previously thought through pathways less travelled allowing researchers to protect their research subjects from harm. Given the constantly shifting and developing nature of research and research ethics, as it explores the dynamic world around us, a sharing of knowledge and practice between IRBs and experienced and novice researchers can only be welcomed.
And the underlying values are respect for expertise and humility:
Tolich who has 20 years of experience in graduate supervision, a decade of that spent on IRBs, is doubtful whether he could advise a graduate student wanting to research identity in chat rooms or Facebook in appropriate ethical pathways.