Ethics Review Boards at the NYT

The New York Times has an interesting article on overzealous Institutional Review Boards in the US (registration required).

For those not familiar with academic processes: These boards approve or reject all research done on human subjects at US universities (including, of course, software development experiments); other countries have an equivalent counterpart, such as Canada’s Ethics Review Boards. Put simply, their mission is to protect these subjects from dangerous or careless research. They are overall a great thing –for example, as much as I loved reading Milgram’s obedience experiment, I would have hated to participate in it, and it’s good to know there is now people performing a sanity check on all human-subjects research. However, as the article shows, these boards sometimes border on the ridiculous:

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.”


About Jorge Aranda

I'm currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at the SEGAL and CHISEL labs in the Department of Computer Science of the University of Victoria.
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3 Responses to Ethics Review Boards at the NYT

  1. Manuel says:

    HE HE HE HE, well, what do you want? Those guinea pigs need protection against learning how to read! Bureaucracies are bureaucracies, and academic ones are infamous for following the book too close. A hiring process in the private sector takes up to one month, in an university or government institution, one to six months!

  2. Test says:



  3. nemoforone says:

    What about the possibility of pulling out of Iraq, letting Iran invade and lose resources fighting their own kind,
    and then come in and mop up the dregs?

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