The University of California, San Diego, has determined that most projects by historians and journalists need not be submitted to the IRB.
The fact sheet explains that most oral histories and journalistic projects do not meet the federal definition of human subjects research.
Historians and journalists typically use collected information to explain past or current events but not to create theories, principles, or statements of relationships that are predictive of future events or that can be widely applied. Such activities would not be considered “generalizable knowledge.”
Where, however, projects at UCSD are, in fact, designed to develop or contribute to “generalizable knowledge,” such projects must be submitted to the HRPP. Upon submission, such projects may be granted exemption from IRB review, handled through the expedited review process, or reviewed by the full IRB, as appropriate.
Oral history projects conducted by, or under the supervision of, UCSD faculty, staff or students should be conducted in accordance with the guidelines established by the Oral History Association for the ethical and professional practice of oral history.
This policy builds on Columbia University’s pioneering policy of 2007, which also excludes oral history on the grounds that it lacks predictive value and therefore is not designed to produce generalizable knowledge. And, like Columbia, UCSD expects its historians to adhere to the Oral History Association guidelines. But whereas Columbia took more than four pages to explain its reasoning, UCSD has managed to boil its policy down to one page.
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.