Ross Cheit recently posted a comment about his ongoing frustrations with the IRB process at Brown University. Since his comment is attached to an older post from our blog forum on IRBs, it may be missed by many readers. He said he wouldn't mind if I reproduced it here:
I have been fighting a losing battle against mission creep and other IRB craziness at Brown for years.
I have a collection of experiences that are almost too bizarre to believe. They prevented an undergraduate of mine from asking a question about views on reparations in a survey of other undergraduates because the question was considered "too sensitive." (She was told it had to go to full board review, and of course there was no time for that given that they had already spent months reviewing her thesis protocol.)
And they have just announced a new policy that says that undergraduates cannot be PIs on their own research. The reasoning: they are still learning the IRB process. We have tried without success to explain that they are also still learning to do research in general, which is why their work does not "contribute to generalizable knowledge"!
But no. Any opportunity to expand their jurisdiction is justified in the name of "ethics." It's madness. There is no sense that the federal statute never anticipated any of this. Meanwhile, they are expanding the definition of what undergraduate projects count as research.
I am discouraged and outraged, but at least because of this blog I no longer feel alone in this battle.
The original post by Jack Katz, "Outside of Biomed Research, IRBs are Essentially Censorship Agencies," is here.