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NY Times on Institutional Review Boards

Hey, look, a good article in the New York Times:

...faculty and graduate students across the country increasingly complain that these panels have spun out of control, curtailing academic freedom and interfering with research in history, English and other subjects that poses virtually no danger to anyone.

The panels, known as Institutional Review Boards, are required at all institutions that receive research money from any one of 17 federal agencies and are charged with signing off in advance on almost all studies that involve a living person, whether a former president of the United States or your own grandmother. This results, critics say, in unnecessary and sometimes absurd demands.

Among the incidents cited in recent report by the American Association of University Professors are a review board asking a linguist studying a preliterate tribe to �have the subjects read and sign a consent form,� and a board forbidding a white student studying ethnicity to interview African-American Ph.D. students �because it might be traumatic for them.�

�It drives historians crazy,� said Joshua Freeman, the director of the City University�s graduate history program. �It�s a medical model, it�s inappropriate and ignorant.� One student currently waiting for a board to approve his study of a strike in the 1970s, Mr. Freeman said, had to submit a list of questions he was going to ask workers and union officials, file signed consent forms, describe the locked location where he would keep all his notes, take a test to certify he understood the standards.

Zachary Schrag of the George Mason history department maintains a blog on institutional review boards (via Adler). Our earlier coverage is here and here, and also see this at Overlawyered.



Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy

Manhattan Institute


Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.