AAUP Critiques System of Reviewing Human-Subjects Research

September 5, 2012

A new report by the American Association of University Professors suggests various ways that the government can rewrite regulations on the research of human subjects. The report, "Regulation of Research on Human Subjects: Academic Freedom and the Institutional Review Board," is a response to a federal government endeavor to improving regulations when it comes to such research. The report says that the current review system, where an Institutional Review Board -- a local committee that monitors research that involves humans -- assesses research projects is far from ideal as the board's members might not have any special competence in the vast range of disciplines they might be asked to monitor. It suggests that university departments and faculty committees might be better equipped to deal with the job rather than these boards. "[A]lthough researchers may make mistakes in deciding whether their research methodology would be a minimal risk methodology, we think that the alternative – namely requiring that all research projects be approved by an IRB or an IRB surrogate – is markedly worse in its impact on both academic freedom and scientific research,” the report says. “...[W]e are recommending that if a research project would impose no more than minimal risk of harm on its subjects, then it therefore should be exempt from the requirement of IRB approval." 


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