Hinckley Institute Radio Hour: Institutional Review Boards & Academic Freedom

zacharySchragThe Hinckley Institute Radio Hour (Air date: July 16, 2014) –  Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) have been legally designated to review and monitor any medical or academic research in American universities and colleges since the mid 1970’s.  Their fundamental purpose is to ensure any research respects the health, privacy, or dignity of other human beings, especially powerless or vulnerable groups of people. History is rife with examples of unethical research such as the Tuskeegee Syphilis Experiments or the Fernald State School trials using radioactive minerals in impaired children.

But some academic critics feel that the IRB process has become too restrictive of non-medical research, such as conducted by social scientists whose research can simply involve conversations between adults.  George Mason University Professor of History Sachary Schrag spoke at the Hinckley Institute on March 20, 2014.  Schrag is a critic of Institutional Review Boards.  He questions the kinds of activities that merit the scrutiny of an IRB ethics board, and he argues that political scientists could help lead the way for changes to the ethical review board system.  Shrag is the author of Ethical Imperialism: Institutional Review Boards and the Social Sciences, 1965-2009, in 2010.