Amanda Snellinger ats35 at cornell.edu
Wed Apr 4 12:18:30 EDT 2007

I have not been reading through the details of everyone's woes with  
IRB so I felt hesitant to contribute at the risk of repeating someone  
else's point.

After reading Dr. Murphy's perspective,  I realize it has taken  
awhile for the response I had all along to be raised. I completely  
agree with him.

I myself had problems getting human subjects approval to work with  
student activists, some of whom are under 18. With a few back and  
forths with the IRB committee and support from my advisor, my  
research was eventually cleared without the requirement that my  
informants or their parents must sign an informed consent agreement.   
At the time the critiques and concerns of the IRB committee  seemed   
completely off base to me.  I soon found out, as you all have, that  
no anthropologists or sociologists sit on Cornell's IRB committee.   
In discussing this with the IRB head administrator she said it is not  
as if they don't try to solicit the participation of those from the  
social sciences, they do have but  have been unsuccessful in  
convincing anyone to give their time.  She admitted that  
participating on the IRB committee is a thankless job.  It does not  
manifest in any monetary gain, nor does it bolster your c.v. or add  
to your chances of getting tenure.  She figured unless professors had  
an ethical stake in participating, then it was only added work to an  
academic life that is probably spread too thin.

In a nutshell, anthropologists and other social scientists have to  
make a choice.  Either they volunteer to be on these committees with  
no substantial benefit in return or we continue to struggle through  
the process of cross-discipline misunderstandings in order to gain  
institutional approval to do our research.

All that aside,  I found if you are tenacious enough you can get the  
approval you need.

Amanda Snellinger
Ph.D. Candidate
Anthropology Department
Cornell University
ats35 at cornell.edu

On Apr 4, 2007, at 12:25 AM, Arthur D. Murphy ADMURPHY wrote:

> Having served as Associate Vice President for Research where part  
> of my
> portfolio was compliance I may have a slightly different take on  
> much of
> this.  I would say that a major solution too many of these problems  
> would
> be if more Anthropologists would serve on University IRB boards.   
> We tend
> to let others sit on the boards because it is too much trouble or only
> involves ?our? field now and then.  All of the above are true, but the
> best way to educate IRB boards is to sit on them so they see  
> Anthropology
> in action when reviewing other proposals.  Also more Anthropologists
> should attend Office of Research Integrity workshops so we know  
> what the
> requirements of law are.  Many who sit on IRB boards do not really  
> know
> and as such make decisions on what they ?think? their role is.  I  
> am not
> trying to blame the victim here it is just that IRB is now a fact  
> of life
> and we must learn to work with it not against it.  I for one have  
> found
> little difficulty dealing with the IRB for research in the US,  
> Mexico and
> Bolivia.
> Arthur D. Murphy, PhD
> Professor and Head
> Department of Anthropology
> The University of North Carolina at Greensboro
> Greensboro NC 27412-5001
> admurphy at uncg.edu
> Tel (336) 334-5132
> fax (336) 334-5674
> "Deborah Pellow" <dpellow at maxwell.syr.edu>
> Sent by: urbanth-l-bounces at lists.ysu.edu
> 04/03/2007 10:03 AM
> To
> <gmcdonog at brynmawr.edu>, <urbanth-l at lists.ysu.edu>
> cc
> Subject
> 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
> gmcdonog at brynmawr.edu
> Sent: Monday, April 02, 2007 1:02 PM
> To: urbanth-l at lists.ysu.edu
> Subject: [URBANTH-L]IRB
> Deborah Pellow's comments reminded me of my own doctoral IRB review,
> which
> didn't actually seem to care much about the people involved, but
> insisted
> 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
> more
> 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
> file
> at least initial forms for "low-level" scrutiny on their senior  
> thesis.
> In
> the end, we indicate to them that certain kinds of research are
> impossible
> without starting the approval process months in advance (and  
> generally,
> I
> have agreed with imposing such limits on undergraduate  
> adventures).  in
> fact, this has become a good learning opportunity for them to think
> about
> research and responsibility, and we am not sorry that future  
> architects
> and planners have been dragged into the discussion.  Yet, I am struck
> that
> students in the humanities (and, to be honest, I have never asked
> faculty
> 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  
> boards.
> Gary McDonogh
> Professor/Chair
> Program in Growth and Structure of Cities
> Bryn Mawr College
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