One of my biggest frustrations this academic year has been an unfortunate change in the review of human-subjects research at DePaul. The IRB has been dramatically pickier in reviewing protocols. While I am completely on board about the importance of ethical human-subjects research, I’m of the opinion that the IRB has made the process worse and not better with their new approach. I don’t see that endless changes in minor wording for protocols that everyone agrees are exempt benefits anyone.
Unfortunately, there really isn’t anything I can do about the IRB’s new approach. So I decided this week that I’m going to be the change that I’d like to see in them. Thankfully I don’t have many bureaucratic tasks that I do, but there are a few. In thinking about my IRB experience, most of the frustration comes from the feeling that the interactions are unnecessary. When faced with a bureaucratic task it’s easier to follow the book precisely and word-for-word rather than make a judgement call, but that creates a lot of potential for frustration. So whenever possible I’m going to evaluate the bureaucratic situations carefully. Does a student really need to take a prerequisite when they’ve passed a class that’s 80% similar to it? Is it possible for me to take an extra 30 seconds to direct a student to a faculty member’s office so that they don’t have to call him/her on the phone? Can this course count for a degree even if it’s not listed in the requirements? Sometimes it will be necessary to follow the requirement to the letter, but I want to make sure that I’m always clear on why that is. If I can articulate that to the person I’m working with it might help them to not have the “this is pointless” feeling.
Taking a more careful approach to bureaucratic tasks will require more energy and thought, but killing (or at least containing) my inner bureaucrat is worth it. Given the number of times I have to interact with the IRB, I will have plenty of reminders of the potential benefit.