By Joan Rachlin, executive director
Happy May! I’ve just celebrated the new month’s arrival by traveling to Montreal for the 10th anniversary and annual meeting of the Canadian Association of Research Ethics Boards (CAREB). As I’ve said before (self-serving though it may be), there’s nothing quite like the boost one receives from attending educational events. I feel refreshed and renewed in a way that is hard to replicate in the grind of my daily work life.
Beyond the intellectual infusion, the ego gratification is also balm for a tired soul. Hearing how much PRIM&R means to those in and around the research ethics world embodies my personal definition of professional purpose and relevance, but not all reports of PRIM&R’s value are equal.
For a child of the sixties, I was thus especially warmed when Francis Rolleston, of Canada’s National Research Ethics Board, told me that he urges colleagues to attend PRIM&R’s conferences, and promises that our meetings will “blow their minds” given the amount and quality of important information. That’s about as good as it gets for those of us who search for meaning in both our work and personal lives. PRIM&R matters, and I know that research subjects would agree if they knew about our work on their behalf.
I’d like to tell you a bit about our north-of-the-border friends and colleagues from CAREB, all of whom are committed—just like their PRIM&R counterparts—to promoting responsible research while developing appropriate checks and balances. As I am constantly reminded whenever I travel outside my catchment, so much more unites than divides us. The threads that connect human beings are universal ones: the desire for love, dignity, security, and respect. So, too, with the invisible threads that connect professionals in the research ethics world, we are all committed to protecting research subjects who are key to the advancement of science.
When Alex Karabanow, of Ryerson University, and CAREB’s Board President, kicked off the conference, he posed a few questions that he felt were high on the wish list of Canadian REBs. Among them were:
- Are REBs best situated within the institutions they serve, or does this embedded status create real or perceived conflicts of interest? (This reminded me of former PRIM&R Board of Directors Chair Leonard Glantz’s longstanding suggestion that the IRB at one institution review the protocols for another so as to get around this “conflicts” concern. Ah, but for the little detail of intellectual property issues, this might work, but there might be other structures for eliminating these concerns.)
- Should the research ethics system continue to be based on committee membership by volunteers, no matter how knowledgeable they might be?
- Can there be a more unified governance framework that can represent all stakeholders?
In any case, traveling to Montreal for this terrific meeting has my juices flowing, and I’ll be sharing a few of the talks with you in future blog posts.Happy almost May Day and a lovely weekend to you all!