Deborah Pellow dpellow at maxwell.syr.edu
Tue Apr 3 11:03:47 EDT 2007

Appropos of what both Anne and Gary have written in: we in anthropology
HAVE tried to educate the IRB people about our work, the contexts within
which we work, and so on, and sometimes it's successful. It's certainly
better today than it was 15 years ago. When I was going off to do
research in N Ghana last year, the IRB insisted upon a letter of
consent. I gave them one in English and since much of my work would be
in Dagbani, they wanted it in that language. Once in the field I got
help translating it into Dagbani. But as I said the other day, it really
was pro forma.

As for exceptions: this is interesting, because the IRB make such a big
deal about students getting clearance before doing work with human
subjects. As it turns out, they no longer require students doing
interviewing for class projects to hand in an IRB application the
application (I think because their office is short-handed). I asked the
IRB office if it covers all fields and they said any MA/PhD students or
faculty, in the sciences, social sciences, humanities, and so on, doing
field  research are required to do the application.
Deborah Pellow

-----Original Message-----
From: urbanth-l-bounces at lists.ysu.edu
[mailto:urbanth-l-bounces at lists.ysu.edu] On Behalf Of
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Sent: Monday, April 02, 2007 1:02 PM
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Deborah Pellow's comments reminded me of my own doctoral IRB review,
didn't actually seem to care much about the people involved, but
that my letter had to be in English for work in a non-English speaking
area.  The originals in Castilian and Catalan were sent back....

But this discussion also raises a question that I would like to know
about from colleagues.  I teach in an interdisciplinary undergraduate
program that deals with issues of both built form and socio-cultural
issues.  Because of the latter interest, ALL of our students need to
at least initial forms for "low-level" scrutiny on their senior thesis.
the end, we indicate to them that certain kinds of research are
without starting the approval process months in advance (and generally,
have agreed with imposing such limits on undergraduate adventures).  in
fact, this has become a good learning opportunity for them to think
research and responsibility, and we am not sorry that future architects
and planners have been dragged into the discussion.  Yet, I am struck
students in the humanities (and, to be honest, I have never asked
about their own reviews) can adopt "cultural studies" projects involving
interviews and observation in sometimes problematic situations with no
review whatsoever.  Deborah said Syracuse had no exceptions -- does this
apply to the humanities as well?  This might also be a point of
leverage/discussion in terms of the biomedical dominance of so many IRB

Gary McDonogh
Program in Growth and Structure of Cities
Bryn Mawr College

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