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Policy

Professors Fault Research Review Process

by Britt E. Erickson
September 10, 2012 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 90, ISSUE 37

Institutional review boards (IRBs), which decide whether research that involves human subjects can be conducted, are threatening academic freedom, according to a report released last week by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). The report suggests that university departments, faculty committees, and researchers themselves could handle many of the responsibilities currently assigned to IRBs. AAUP claims that IRBs are often made up of members who don’t have specific qualifications to evaluate research projects in a wide range of disciplines. The group also states that IRBs consider limited information when evaluating research proposals and place significant demands on researchers. The report is the third from AAUP that focuses on the tension between preservation of academic freedom and the use of IRBs to protect human subjects in research. AAUP released the report to urge the Department of Health & Human Services to overhaul regulations related to the IRB review process. Last year, HHS asked the public for input about the review process, but it has yet to propose a rule.

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