mvesperi at earthlink.net mvesperi at earthlink.net
Tue Apr 3 10:03:14 EDT 2007

I am a member of the New College of Florida IRB. We don't have much trouble with the ethnographic proposals. Most of them fall into the "expedited" category rather than exempt, because they involve audio-visual documentation of subjects or research in a foreign language/country. Our director of research is outstanding and the site she has developed is a really good one: 


Click on Institutional Review Board to see the details. There is a category "Ethnographic Research," and here is a detail from the "Frequently Asked Questions" page: 

"we are asked many questions regarding anthropological and ethnographic research.  The American Anthropological Association has adopted a statement on Ethnography and IRB review.  It is well worth the read.

Good luck. We have found that overall, the IRB process has improved the quality of research on our campus. Maria Vesperi

-----Original Message-----
>From: "Wolfe, Alvin" <wolfe at cas.usf.edu>
>Sent: Apr 2, 2007 3:46 PM
>To: urbanth-l at lists.ysu.edu, "Lewinson, Anne" <alewinson at berry.edu>, Elzbieta M Gozdziak <emg27 at georgetown.edu>, "Patty A. Gray" <ffpag at uaf.edu>
>Subject: Re: [URBANTH-L]IRB woes -
>Anne Lewinson put it so well, that 'exempt' does not really mean
>'exempt,' and that we anthropologists should use our field diplomacy to
>convince an ultra-science-oriented reviewer that we are as concerned
>that the 'participants' not be harmed in the research as they are.
>Actually, we might be more concerned, because some of those IRB members
>seem more interested in protecting the institution than in protecting
>the 'subjects.'
>Alvin W. Wolfe
>Distinguished University Professor Emeritus
>Department of Anthropology
>4202 E. Fowler Avenue, SOC107
>University of South Florida
>Tampa, FL  33620-8100   813-974-0794
>-----Original Message-----
>From: urbanth-l-bounces at lists.ysu.edu
>[mailto:urbanth-l-bounces at lists.ysu.edu] On Behalf Of Lewinson, Anne
>Sent: Monday, April 02, 2007 9:47 AM
>To: Elzbieta M Gozdziak; Patty A. Gray
>Cc: urbanth-l at lists.ysu.edu
>Subject: RE: [SPAM] - Re: [URBANTH-L]IRB woes - Email found in subject
>Hello everyone, 
>I would say ditto to everything which has been said so far, and the only
>reason I have chimed in is because I'm actually on the IRB at my
>institution (and have been for three or four years), so I have developed
>a good bit of familiarity with the process. I want to highlight an
>important distinction which was pointed out, namely that 'exempt'
>doesn't mean that the research doesn't need to be submitted at all to
>the IRB, but rather that it is reviewed at a lower level of scrutiny
>(only one committee member reads it rather than several or the full
>Overall, you may need to 'educate' a behavioral/medical
>science-dominated board about the relevant regulations for ethnographic
>research, however if done in the right spirit (namely 'we certainly want
>to protect the privacy, well-being, and dignity of the participants and
>this is how I will make sure my research does so without written consent
>for everything...'), it can be an amicable process. 
>Best wishes to all,
>Anne S. Lewinson [alewinson at berry.edu]
>Assistant Professor of Anthropology
>Berry College
>495010 Mount Berry Station
>Mount Berry, GA  30149-5010   USA
>Phone: (706) 236-5094
>Fax: (706) 236-2205
>-----Original Message-----
>From: urbanth-l-bounces at lists.ysu.edu
>[mailto:urbanth-l-bounces at lists.ysu.edu] On Behalf Of Elzbieta M
>Sent: Sunday, April 01, 2007 6:41 PM
>To: Patty A. Gray
>Cc: urbanth-l at lists.ysu.edu
>Subject: [SPAM] - Re: [URBANTH-L]IRB woes - Email found in subject
>These are wonderful references.  I used them in many of my IRB
>applications. One caveat though, NSF has an 'anthropology program' so of
>course they understand better anthropological methodologies and
>ethnographic methods. A multidisciplinary IRB needs more explanation.
>On the other hand, I have learnt a lot from the GU IRB (as well as from
>doing multidisciplinary research with collegues from social work,
>psychology, etc.) and would not dream of doing a project without going
>through an IRB process. I have even incorporated IRB exercises in my
>applied and medical anthropology classes because I find that students
>are not exposed to questions of research ethics to the extent that they
>should be to enter a workforce. 
>At the SfAAs last week, several of us were talking about organizing a
>session for the following AAAs on ethics and IRBs.
>Elzbieta M. Gozdziak, Ph.D.
>Research Director
>Editor, International Migration
>Georgetown University
>Harris Building
>3300 Whitehaven St NW
>Suite 3100
>Washington, DC 20007
>Tel: 202-687-2193
>Fax: 202-687-2541
>e-mail: emg27 at georgetown.edu
>----- Original Message -----
>From: "Patty A. Gray" <ffpag at uaf.edu>
>Date: Saturday, March 31, 2007 9:11 pm
>Subject: [URBANTH-L]IRB woes
>> There has been a great deal of discussion on this in recent years - I 
>> think you will find plenty of support. I would recommend first of all 
>> the forum in the November 2006 issue of American Ethnologist (Vol.33, 
>> No.4, pp.478-548) titled "IRBs, Bureaucratic Regulation, and Academic 
>> Freedom." I would direct you in particular to the article by Deborah 
>> Winslow of the National Science Foundation - she demostrates the ways 
>> that NSF policy supports ethnographic research, which can be useful 
>> ammunition in the face of an IRB dominated by natural scientists who 
>> may have difficulty understanding.
>> There is also useful discussions of IRB issues in an article by Edward
>> Bruner in the January 2004 Anthropology News. His advice is to work 
>> steadily to educate one's IRB, while remaining cooperative. The goal 
>> would be to make sure there is at least one social scientist on your 
>> institution's IRB, and indeed if the IRB is reviewing social science 
>> protocols, there is a strong case to be made for why social science 
>> expertise is needed on the board.
>> At my institution, we are lucky that we have an IRB that includes 
>> social scientists and that is very understanding about the nature of 
>> social science research. I find that I still have to adapt the 
>> biomedically-oriented IRB application form to my own purposes - many 
>> questions are simply inappropriate for ethnographic research. In those
>> cases, I first explain what question should have been asked, and then 
>> I answer that question. Often what I am proposing in my application 
>> exceeds the ethical requirements implied by the original question, 
>> such as insisting (with careful and patient explanation) that 
>> requiring signed consent forms in some cases would do harm to research
>> "subjects."
>> You are right - most ethnographic studies should be "exempt," i.e. 
>> subject only to the minimal IRB review.
>> Hang in there - you really are not alone, and there are resources you 
>> can draw upon.
>> Patty Gray
>> University of Alaska Fairbanks
>> 1. IRB vows and woes (Annegret Staiger) I am running into problems 
>> with our Institutional Review Board for gettingmy research proposal 
>> approved. My institution, which has no social science faculty on its 
>> board and is mostly reviewing pscychology, medical and technology 
>> research proposals, regards participant observation as a research 
>> method that requires a consentforms and a full IRB proposal. This is 
>> of course extremely impractical, if not impossible to do when doing 
>> field research in a natural setting.  From colleagues I am hearing 
>> that theirIRB's are usually providing an exemption for anthropological
>> research,unless it deals with vulnerable populations.
>> Using this forum, I would like to find out how other anthropologists 
>> have dealt with their institution's reviewboards and how they have 
>> managed to not let the IRB stiffle their research.
>> Annegret Staiger
>> Clarkson University
>> --
>> Dr. Patty A. Gray
>> Assistant Professor
>> Graduate Coordinator
>> Department of Anthropology
>> University of Alaska Fairbanks
>> 312B Eielson Bldg.
>> P.O. Box 757720
>> Fairbanks, AK  99775-7720
>> U.S.A.
>> Tel. (907) 474-6188
>> Fax (907) 474-7453
>> http://www.uaf.edu/anthro
>> http://www.faculty.uaf.edu/ffpag/chukotka.html
>> _______________________________________________
>> URBANTH-L mailing list
>> URBANTH-L at lists.ysu.edu
>> http://lists.ysu.edu/mailman/listinfo.cgi/urbanth-l
>URBANTH-L mailing list
>URBANTH-L at lists.ysu.edu
>URBANTH-L mailing list
>URBANTH-L at lists.ysu.edu
>URBANTH-L mailing list
>URBANTH-L at lists.ysu.edu

More information about the URBANTH-L mailing list