Friday, September 30, 2016

IRB consent form spooked respondents

Commenting on Patricia Aufderheide’s essay, “Does This Have to Go Through the IRB?,” a writer with the screen name “reinking” relates:

I was investigating a routine instructional intervention in a school district serving a large hispanic population. IRB required, not just that the consent form be translated into Spanish (not unreasonable if a consent form was necessary), but also that I develop several versions in different dialects. Nonetheless, when sent to parents, remarkably few were returned, and I eventually determined why. The standard template for IRB consent (modeled on far riskier medical research) indicated that any questions or concerns should be directed to me as “principal investigator.” “Investigator” was apparently a term (in English or Spanish) that set off alarm bells among parents in this hispanic community.

So much for IRB sensitivity to local conditions.

Monday, September 19, 2016

More failures of "local precedents"

Laura Stark’s 2012 book, Behind Closed Doors: IRBs and the Making of Ethical Research, devotes a chapter to what Stark calls “local precedents,” her term for “the past decisions that guide board members’ evaluations of subsequent research.” “By drawing on local precedent,” Stark claims, “board members can read new protocols as permutations of studies that they have previously debated and settled based on members’ warrants. The result is that IRBs tend to make decisions that are locally consistent over time.” (47)

But I keep getting stories about IRBs that are locally inconsistent.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

A satisfied customer at American University

Patricia Aufderheide, University Professor of Communication Studies at American University, reports her satisfaction with the IRB at that institution. It’s great to hear some good news, and Aufderheide’s essay points to the importance of having the right people in positions of power. But it also raises questions about how good and how replicable AU’s experience is.

[Patricia Aufderheide, “Does This Have to Go Through the IRB?,” Chronicle of Higher Education, August 17, 2016.]