Historians and Other Scholars Fight Proposed Expansion of IRB Rules





Oral history should not be subject to approval by institutional review boards, according to dozens of comments submitted by historians and others to the federal Office for Human Research Protections, which announced last October that it would amend the rules governing what kinds of research qualify for expedited review by the boards.

Some researchers and some boards, commonly known as IRB’s, have interpreted the existing rules to mean that oral history is exempt from such oversight altogether. The boards were originally set up to monitor scientific research involving human subjects, but their scope has since expanded to include any studies of human beings, no matter what the field.

IRB oversight has been a sore spot for many scholars in the humanities and social sciences. Oral historians have been especially vocal about why they believe their work should be exempt from such review.


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