“As might have been expected, the proposed revisions to the Common Rule regulating research ethics in federally funded research in the U.S. have not gone unchallenged.
The proposals are contained in a long and complex document. Even those of us who take a close interest in these things have struggled to assimilate 500 pages of dense prose. It is not, then, unreasonable that the consultation period has been extended by another 30 days. However, it is important that scholars who basically support the proposals take advantage of this to express positive views – because it is clear that there is a determined push back.
As I outlined in a previous blog, these revisions would mean that most social science research would be excluded from IRB review.
Any research involving standardized testing, surveys, interviews, or observations, including audio and video recording, of public behavior, including behavior online, will be able to proceed without further review. Certain types of experimental work will also be excluded, where participants experience ‘benign interventions [which are] brief in duration, harmless, painless, not physically invasive, not likely to have a significant adverse lasting impact…[or to be] offensive or embarrassing.’ These studies may include an element of deception provided the participant agrees to this in advance. Oral history, journalism, biography and historical scholarship about named individuals can proceed solely with reference to the disciplines’ own codes of ethics. The secondary analysis of administrative data, including many health and criminal justice records, even in identifiable form, will be excluded from review provided it complies with data protection legislation. Some research with children would still require review: standardized tests and non-participant observation would be excluded but not surveys, interviews and participant observation.”