Conference on Censorship and Institutional Review Boards

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Thursday, April 6, 2006 @ 12:00am2006-04-06 00:00:00 2006-04-06 00:00:00 Conference on Censorship and Institutional Review Boards  This conference will explore the threat to First Amendment freedoms and to academic freedom from Institutional Review Boards--so called "IRBs." IRBs are established by universities, under federal regulations, for prior review of research. Before a professor or student can do research on human subjects, he must submit a research proposal to an IRB for its approval. Although IRBs rarely deny permission outright, they require modification of about 80% of submitted proposals. Even when research is "exempt," IRBs usually require it to be registered. Indeed, IRBs keep records of approved, disapproved, and registered research for examination by federal officials. Of course, it may seem only reasonable that a researcher should get permission before doing research on human subjects, but IRBs raise important First Amendment questions. In particular, there is reason to fear that in establishing a system of getting prior permission, the regulations on IRBs create a system of licensing speech and the press. The primary federal regulations on IRBs--collectively known as the "Common Rule"--define "research" as a "systematic investigation" designed to produce "generalizable knowlege," which is understood to be knowledge of the sort published by researchers. 45 CFR Part 46. Moreover, the regulations impose the system of administrative licensing on much research that consists solely of reading, talking, asking questions, and printing and distributing surveys. Under these regulations, IRBs interfere with much academic inquiry and expression, and they have had the effect of almost shutting down some fields of study. In short, the regulations on IRBs deserve attention, for they appear to establish a sweeping system of prior administrative censorship that bears a remarkable resemblance to the licensing of the press that the First Amendment most centrally forbade. The conference papers will be published by the Northwestern University Law Review, and the conference is supported by Northwestern University School of Law, the John M. Olin Program in Law and Economics at the University of Chicago, and the MacLean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics at the University of Chicago. For a schedule and list of speakers, see http://irbinfo.blogspot.com/. Attendance is free, but please register ahead of time with Marjorie Holme at mholme@uchicago.edu. For other information, please contact Philip Hamburger at hamburger@law.columbia.edu. - University of Chicago Law School willcanderson@uchicago.edu America/Chicago public
Open to the public

 

This conference will explore the threat to First Amendment freedoms and to academic freedom from Institutional Review Boards--so called "IRBs." IRBs are established by universities, under federal regulations, for prior review of research. Before a professor or student can do research on human subjects, he must submit a research proposal to an IRB for its approval. Although IRBs rarely deny permission outright, they require modification of about 80% of submitted proposals. Even when research is "exempt," IRBs usually require it to be registered. Indeed, IRBs keep records of approved, disapproved, and registered research for examination by federal officials.

Of course, it may seem only reasonable that a researcher should get permission before doing research on human subjects, but IRBs raise important First Amendment questions. In particular, there is reason to fear that in establishing a system of getting prior permission, the regulations on IRBs create a system of licensing speech and the press. The primary federal regulations on IRBs--collectively known as the "Common Rule"--define "research" as a "systematic investigation" designed to produce "generalizable knowlege," which is understood to be knowledge of the sort published by researchers. 45 CFR Part 46. Moreover, the regulations impose the system of administrative licensing on much research that consists solely of reading, talking, asking questions, and printing and distributing surveys. Under these regulations, IRBs interfere with much academic inquiry and expression, and they have had the effect of almost shutting down some fields of study. In short, the regulations on IRBs deserve attention, for they appear to establish a sweeping system of prior administrative censorship that bears a remarkable resemblance to the licensing of the press that the First Amendment most centrally forbade.

The conference papers will be published by the Northwestern University Law Review, and the conference is supported by Northwestern University School of Law, the John M. Olin Program in Law and Economics at the University of Chicago, and the MacLean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics at the University of Chicago.

For a schedule and list of speakers, see http://irbinfo.blogspot.com/. Attendance is free, but please register ahead of time with Marjorie Holme at mholme@uchicago.edu. For other information, please contact Philip Hamburger at hamburger@law.columbia.edu.