Friday, May 3, 2013

Mortifyingly Stupid CITI Training Kills Oral History Course

Writing on H-Oral, Carl Kramer, the retired director of the Institute for Local and Oral History, Indiana University Southeast, reports that Indiana University's requirement of the mortifyingly stupid CITI Program dissuaded him from requiring oral history students to conduct actual interviews:
The issue is whether the training is relevant to oral history. Last year, I planned to have the students in my Oral History course at Indiana University Southeast interview baby boomers who grew up in a nearby former company town. The local library had conducted a similar project of the previous generation about 25 years earlier, and I thought it would be a great follow up. But meanwhile, Indiana University had adopted a national training program for human subjects research that was oriented toward biomedical and psychological standards, including units on dealing with pregnant women and fetuses, HIPPA, medically-oriented conflict of interest issues. It took me approximately seven hours to review the tutorial and take the exam. As an instructor who has conducted hundreds of interviews for many years, I concluded that if it took me that long to take an exam whose content was largely irrelevant to oral history, then I could not reasonably require my students to take it. So I ended up giving them the option of doing an interview or taking a final exam. The split was about 50-50, with the majority opting for the final exam. This was for an expedited review project through the IRB. I retired from the institute under which I taught the course, and I would never again teach a course that required such an irrelevant exam.
His comment comes in reply to a posting by a Kent State graduate student who may lose grant funding because she relied on OHRP's 2003 letter stating that "oral history interviewing activities, in general, are not designed to contribute to generalizable knowledge and, therefore, do not involve research as defined by Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) regulations at 45 CFR 46.102(d) and do not need to be reviewed by an institutional review board (IRB)."

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