Yesterday’s IRB conference at Northwestern University was well worth it. In addition to the great panel discussions, the conference provided an opportunity to speak informally with IRB officials, who can be quite reasonable, pragmatic, and open to changing the current system to eliminate wasteful paperwork and delays. Researchers and IRB officials can find common ground, but they need to be talking to one another at events like this conference to find it. IRB “maximalists” accept the following proposition: “No one should participate in research unless independent review concludes that the risks are reasonable in relation to the potential benefits.” Nat’l Bioethics Advisory Commission, I Ethical and Policy Issues in Research Involving Human Participants ii (August 2001). The people I spoke with were not so paternalistic and dogmatic.
Thanks to Philip Hamburger and James Lindgren for organizing the conference.