Can’t we all just get along?

PRIM&R is pleased to bring you a post from the third day of the 2011 Advancing Ethical Research Conference and the PRIM&R Blog Squad. The PRIM&R Blog Squad is composed of PRIM&R members who are devoted to blogging prior to, live from, and after our conferences.

I heard again today what I’ve heard many times over my last eight PRIM&R conferences, “Institutional review boards (IRBs) are just a hassle,” “IRBs get in the way.” It seems again and again I hear that investigators feel that IRBs are a necessary evil. Why is this?

A couple years ago my IRB chair went to a conference and when she mentioned to her discussion group her practice of collaborating with her institution’s IRB before applying for review she received a bunch of blank stares followed by questions such as, “You can do that?” My chair informed the group that she did this quite often and that many other investigators at our institution did as well. Until my chair related her story to me, I thought our culture was a normal one. Our IRB has a supportive, open door atmosphere.

What we have found is that if we take the time to visit with investigators while their study is in the development stage, the review process generally goes a lot more smoothly.  Everyone gets to ask questions and we can educate one another.

I have found that when an investigator calls me wanting to know if their study qualifies for IRB review that if I ask questions and explain to them why I’m asking each question that they quickly go from being a bit confrontational to appreciating my position. To me, it’s all about being reasonable and respectful.

I have had many new  professors tell me that our IRB is much easier to approach than at their previous institutions. Every time I hear this I am amazed. Our IRB goes into classrooms and visits with students about their studies and gets them started on their CITI training. Are we setting our graduate students up for a big disappointment when they go elsewhere? Why are many other IRBs so unapproachable? We are all on the same team after all.

As we depart this year’s conference, I would like to leave you with this thought: We all get along and collaborate in workshops here at the conference, let’s take this spirit of collaboration back to our respective institutions and start a trend of getting along. Maybe, just maybe, we’ll quit hearing what a pain in the rear IRBs are, and instead, start hearing about how well everyone works together.