Shaking up the system: Is it what we really want?

by Courtney Jarboe, PRIM&R Blog Squad member

PRIM&R is pleased to bring you blog posts from the PRIM&R Blog Squad during the 2010 Advancing Ethical Research Conference. The PRIM&R Blog Squad will be blogging every day from the conference, so continue to check back for updates.

Where should we go? More importantly: How do we get there?

The following recounts my initial reaction to Ezekiel Emanuel, MD, PhD’s plenary session this morning at AER.

As we all know, research regulations can feel a bit outdated, or it can seem as if they are applied differently throughout the world. As our awareness of ethical research increases, we need to rethink what regulations say. We need to, to rethink how they are applied, and to think about “what we can do vs. what we should do,” as stated by Montana Miller, PhD, another speaker at AER.

Dr. Emanuel spoke on these vast issues of research regulations, and ignitinged many different reactions in the PRIM&R audience. While some attendees may have been frustrated, I found the atmosphere of the session to be thrilling.

One idea in particular that I found exciting and a bit nervewracking is the conceptthought of changing IRB requirements for informed consent,, which was the subject of another Monday morning session. The Great Debate plenary focused on whether informed consent forms should be abolished. I spoke with one of my fellow bloggers, Sylvia, and we both agree that there were some interesting points in this debate. It’s true that there are inconsistencies in regulations and reviews, but the issue at hand is institutional buy-in regarding ethics and the IRB.

The amount of work that would be imposed on our office would be difficult to manage, but if it would make subjects more informed, then I’m all for it. I think we as a community support IRBs and researchers. I would be happy to move ethics in the right direction, but if you do not have the resources to make these changes happen, how do we get there?

The bottom line is that we need a change. The first thing that we can improve is our approach to change, and the support we need to make actual changes. We know that there are problems regarding staffing, so how can we become more creative in how we handle these changes andor pursue issues that need to change?

I think of it as creative project management. We have great ideas on how to change, but we too, like many other programs, struggle with prioritizing and managing these changes. I don’t have the solutionss to this either, but would encourage those who have received institutional support and buy-in to comment and share what has worked forrom them. Or, if you have ways to successfully manage initiatives, it’d be great to hear from you as well.