| Peter Klein |
Zachary Schrag’s excellent Institutional Review Blog highlights the discussion on a recent Chronicle post about IRBs. As you can imagine, most of the comments are from frustrated researchers who see the campus IRB as their enemy, not their ally. Sample: “At my current institution, humanities scholars are subject to an IRB that only makes sense for scientists collecting blood and doing life-threatening experiments on small children.” Zach points out that a few comments defend the local IRB, but these comments “are vaguer and less eloquent,” and “none tells a story of an IRB review that proved necessary.”
I suspect that some of this researcher frustration can be alleviated by recognizing that IRBs exist not to protect research subjects, but to protect the university. The IRB’s goal is to prevent the university from being sued or otherwise losing Federal funding. Protecting research subjects, improving research methods, and contributing to the growth of knowledge are incidental.