Not Quite Alone in the Wilderness

As a relative newcomer to the IRB administrator profession, one of my goals for the 2017 Advancing Ethical Resesarch Conference was to meet and develop a network of other professionals at institutions similar to my own. At my institution, I am the only full-time IRB administrator, and at times, it can feel like I am alone in the wilderness of IRB administration. While there are countless useful resources available online, there is often much more nuance and perspective to be gained by being able to bounce ideas off of and discuss pitfalls with a more experienced individuals

The session “Flying Solo: A Moderated Discussion on Challenges Encountered by Single-Staff IRB Offices” presented by April V. Baker, Kim R. Dicciani, and Rachel Zand presented the perfect forum for making these connections while discussing creative problem-solving. All three presenters were extremely knowledgeable, and I appreciated the candor with which they shared their experiences.

During this session, the presenters shared common challenges that they have encountered at their own institutions and invited participants to share and discuss ours as well. The group discussion was enriched by the diverse array of types of institutions and experience levels represented by the attendees. This was an extremely helpful discussion, as it highlighted that many of us were facing similar issues, but it also provided an opportunity for those who had successfully navigated a similar situation to share solutions that had worked for them.

The biggest take-home message for me was the importance of education, transparency, and flexibility in improving the IRB process for all involved. For those not enmeshed in the IRB world every single day, the process can feel like a maze of forms and jargon. Educational outreach with plain language can go a long way in making the IRB process more understandable and less daunting. As IRB administrators, we should work to identify the flexibilities in the system and translate that to investigators so we can help them understand the requirements. Learning about how others used creative solutions to address their challenges inspired me to reflect on my own position and assess the strengths and weaknesses in our IRB process.

This session helped me create a toolkit of new resources and ideas to improve efficiency, communication and transparency, but perhaps more importantly, allowed me to develop a circle of contacts to reach out to for help (and commiseration!) in the future.

Jennie Wyderko, MS, is the research compliance officer at Western Carolina University located in Cullowhee, North Carolina. She oversees and coordinates the IRB, IACUC, and IBC for the campus. She is also responsible for oversight of export controls, responsible conduct of research, and conflict of interest as related to research.

Members of PRIM&R’s Blog Squad and other guest contributors are valued members of our community willing to share their insights. The views expressed in their posts do not necessarily reflect those of PRIM&R or its employees.

Save the date for PRIM&R’s 2018 Advancing Ethical Research Conference, taking place November 14-17 in San Diego, CA.