Wednesday, April 10, 2013

REB Members Beg U of Ottawa to Defend Confidentiality

IRB apologists sometimes argue that IRB review is necessary to ensure that universities will defend researchers and their participants from litigation. Boston College Subpoena News reminds us that ethics approval is no guarantee of such support.

[“News of Interest: Canadian Academics Strongly Defend Research Confidentiality, Call for University Support of Researchers.” Boston College Subpoena News, April 9, 2013.]

Faculty members of two University of Ottawa REBs have petitioned the university administration on behalf of Professors Chris Bruckert and Colette Parent. They explain:

The issue, as we understand it, concerns the Montreal Police department’s efforts to seize confidential data collected in the context of a 2007 research study – in particular, an interview the researchers conducted with a Montreal sex worker. This study received approval by the university’s Research Ethics Board on the explicit condition that the research participants’ confidentiality would be protected. We are asking that the university immediately step forward to offer support to these professors including but not limited to their legal costs in defending the confidentiality of their research records.

Professors Bruckert and Parent have petitioned the Superior Court of Quebec to ensure the confidentiality their research participant was promised in exchange for his participation in the research. The two professors, the Association of Professors at the University of Ottawa, and the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) have all requested support from the University of Ottawa for the professors’ legal expenses. Despite these requests, the university has thus far refused to cover or contribute to the legal costs of defending research confidentiality.

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