Thursday, September 24, 2015

TCPS Envy, Continued

Writing in the Journal of Academic Freedom, law student James Nichols presents Canada’s TCPS2 as a model of balance “that promotes intuitive and promising research without sacrificing human integrity and protection.” However, his conclusion is largely speculative, since we still lack studies of how the document is working in practice.

[James Nichols, “The Canadian Model: A Potential Solution to Institutional Review Board Overreach,” Journal of Academic Freedom 6 (2015)]

Nichols points up several attractive features of TCPS2, including its:

  • status as “a living document that is constantly evolving with the help of scholars”
  • embrace of academic freedom as a guiding principle
  • detailed guidance about specific issues, including a whole chapter on qualitative research
  • heightened requirement for REB expertise
  • requirement of an appeals process.

All of this makes TCPS2 look great on paper, and the object of envy to American scholars like me, as well as some in New Zealand.

On the other hand, Kirsten Bell, a medical anthropologist working in Canada was skeptical of TCPS2 at the 2012 Ethics Summit, and her skepticism remains in her chapter in the forthcoming conference volume, Ethics Rupture.

Neither side offers empirical research on how REB practice has or has not changed in the nearly five years since the release of TCPS2. If anyone knows of such a study, I hope they will alert me.

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