[URBANTH-L]Re: URBANTH-L Digest, Vol 125, Issue 5

Molly Hurley Depret mollyhurleydepret at gmail.com
Sat Mar 31 19:10:11 EDT 2007

Dear Annegret,

Sorry to hear you are having difficulties.  It really does make a difference
to have IRB committee members who are familiar with the research methods of
anthropologists and sociologists.  I have worked for an IRB & have also had
my research approved.  While the committee at my university does have
committee members from these disciplines and it is therefore not as
challenging as it may be at other institutions, you might try the following:

1) looking at the Federal guidelines for research and presenting these to
the committee (e.g., quoting them in your IRB application) to support your
arguments.  These are not always the 'last word,' since committees have some
freedom to give researchers more leeway, but I think your committee would
listen to arguments based on these

For instance, Federal guidelines provide for both oral and written consent,
depending on the context.  My research involves people discussing matters
relating to political violence, and I was therefore able to argue that
written consent could actually do more harm than good, since people might
fear to sign their names.  Instead, I use an Information Sheet on
institutional letterhead (the difference is, there is no signature line),
and participants give oral consent.  The major point is usually whether
names, etc. are going to be linked with the data.  You usually have to make
a clear statement on how names/identifiers are going to be dealt with (e.g.,
that you will not write names in your notes; that contact info. will be kept
in a separate notebook that can't be linked to data).

2) Most anthropological research falls under the category 'Expedited'--
'Exempt' research is pretty rare, most often anonymous surveys.
'Full' is pretty rare, too--this might involve more sensitive cases, where
there is serious concern about informed consent, confidentiality or the
participants'/researchers' safety.

3)  You might also quote the AAA's stance on informed consent & ethics, to
better inform them of the discipline's position on research ethics.

Take a look at the links at the bottom of this page--you will find a link to
the federal guidelines,

If you want to see some of the wording that I used in my application, I
would be happy to send it to you.

Best wishes,

Molly Hurley-Depret
Doctoral Candidate
Graduate Center of CUNY

On 3/31/07, urbanth-l-request at lists.ysu.edu <urbanth-l-request at lists.ysu.edu>
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> Today's Topics:
>    1. IRB vows and woes (Annegret Staiger)
> ---------- Forwarded message ----------
> From: "Annegret Staiger" <staiger at clarkson.edu>
> To: <urbanth-l at lists.ysu.edu>
> Date: Fri, 30 Mar 2007 11:02:47 -0400
> Subject: [URBANTH-L]IRB vows and woes
> I am running into problems with our Institutional Review Board for getting
> my 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 their
> IRB'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
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