Science in Focus: Brian Hunt

Behind Closed Doors, Part 2

How IRBs and researchers work together.

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Stark provides some insightful comments on the use of documents to remove the focus from any one individual board member, allowing the IRB to speak with one voice regarding deliberations. This could be seen as resulting in a loss of personal accountability between IRB members and researchers. The advantage, as Stark points out, is that it "liberates IRB members to advocate more incendiary actions than they would otherwise have suggested, since individual members cannot be held accountable." Thus, while I grudgingly fill out and file the mandated paperwork, it is these mandated processes and the accompanying paperwork that allow for all perspectives and concerns to be heard during the review process. This is the strength of the current IRB review process: that behind closed doors all voices are heard, no views are silenced, and in the end the most persuasive arguments usually win the day, leading to better, more ethical research.

Brian Hunt is associate professor of Applied Health Science at Wheaton College and chair of its IRB

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