When May Expedited Procedures Be Used ?

PRIM&R is pleased to bring you a blog post from PRIM&R Blog Squad member, Christine Scheuring. The PRIM&R Blog Squad is composed of PRIM&R members who are devoted to blogging from and about our conferences. Christine was the PRIM&R Blog Squad member for the 2011 SBER Conference.

On the last day of the 2011 Social, Behavioral, and Educational Research (SBER) Conference, I attended When May Expedited Procedures Be Used? Part I: Initial Review. During the session, attendees were asked to consider whether research that audio taped married couples discussing their financial situations could be expedited. Session facilitator Dean Gallant assistant dean for research administration and policy at Harvard University, further explained that the recordings would be kept confidential and would not be shared with anyone, including the spouse. After some discussion, we all concluded that this study could be reviewed using the expedited procedure.

Following our conclusion, Mr. Gallant went on explain that a study of a similar description had, in fact, been expedited at Harvard. During the course of the study, one of the husbands passed away and the man’s wife asked the researchers for a copy of the audio tape as it was one of the last recordings she had of his voice.

Hearing her story, the sympathetic side of me immediately wanted to give her the tape—no questions asked. However, after further discussion the group came to the consensus that it would not have been the right thing to do, even though the husband was deceased. During the course of our discussion, one attendee suggested he or she would have given the woman an edited version of the tape. After much deliberation, Harvard ultimately ended up erasing the data completely.

If I learned one thing from attending the 2011 SBER Conference it’s that we, as human subjects protections professionals, face a lot of gray area. We confront difficult decisions on a daily basis, and this example was a reminder that the challenges we encounter may not always be those we expect, but it is in those moments that we must rely on one another.

Not only do we have the support of our own institution’s institutional review board chairs and members and fellow staff and administrators, but now we have the vast network of colleagues that we met in Boston, and it’s comforting to know that when tough situations arise, we have each other to consult.