So, today I begin my tenure as the chair of our college's IRB. I've written before on IRB's (here and here). Orgtheory has quite a bit on IRB's that's worth checking out as well. In general, I think it is safe to say that social scientists, and likely researchers of virtually all ilks, do an unfair amount of kvetching and gnashing of teeth about IRB's and human subjects committees. I've starting brainstorming about ways to alleviate the causes of the frustration that many of us, including me, experience with the IRB process. So far, I can see two places for improvement. First, most reviews that spend a prolonged amount of time in the machine do so because researchers inadvertently leave out requirements (e.g. supervisor approvals), fail to attach important documents (e.g. informed consent forms), or fail to provide enough detail about their protocol. A little more attention to detail at the front end can dramatically reduce the time to approval. Second, reviewers need to be regularly reminded to be mindful of the level of risk involved in proposed research. Clarification and revision is often unnecessary when it is clear that the protocol will only pose minimal risks to human subjects. We reviewers can often and easily lose sight of our purpose in the haze of our own institutional bureaucracy. I'm going to try to make these points-of-emphasis early in my stint as chair. I'll report back on how it all goes.
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