Bioethics Blogs

Most IRB Chairs Can’t Recognize Exempt Research or Non-Research

A study of criminal justice researchers’ knowledge of IRB rules has found that IRB chairs can’t agree on what makes a project exempt from review and think that IRB review is needed for public records. The authors of the study, one of whom is an IRB chair, seem not to realize the significance of these findings.

[Tartaro, Christine, and Marissa P. Levy. “Criminal Justice Professionals’ Knowledge of Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) and Compliance with IRB Protocol.” Journal of Criminal Justice Education 25, no. 3 (2014): 321–41. doi:10.1080/10511253.2014.902982.]

“Correct” Answers in Scare Quotes

Christine Tartaro and Marissa P. Levy, both professors of criminal justice at the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, sought to learn what their fellow criminologists knew about IRB rules and procedures.

To do this, they devised seven hypothetical research scenarios and posed them in survey form to two groups. First, IRB chairs–from whom they got 164 responses–and second, to U.S.-based, academic members of the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences (ACJS). Of the 1,174 potential respondents in the latter group, they received 323 from respondents who work at institutions with IRBs.

For reasons not well explained, the authors labeled the consensus view of the IRB chairs as the “correct” answer to a given scenario.

The correct answers for the scenario responses were gained by reviewing each scenario with the Chair [i.e., Levy] and comparing her answers to those of a national survey of IRB Chairs which produced responses from 164 IRB Chairs. While we acknowledge that many of these answers are subject to interpretation, it is the IRB Chairs who ultimately decide the level of review required for each protocol based on his or her interpretation of the federal guidelines.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.