Facilitating Better and Faster IRB Approvals for DML Research

Principal Investigators:
Alex Halavais and Jason Schultz

Research in DML presents new methodological opportunities and challenges. Research in the area often involves young subjects, new communication technologies, and the sharing of sensitive data, all of which make the Institutional Review Board process difficult. These two workshops aim to find solutions that will enable more effective IRB processes.

IRBs are bureaucrat-run groups of institutional members (usually faculty) that review research proposals involving human subjects in order to make sure they are safe, ethical, and consensual with respect to the treatment of and risks to the subjects. However, because IRBs also serve as a guard against institutional liability, they are often overly conservative when it comes to new methodologies, technologies, media, protocols, and subject matters . Moreover, many IRB members are often unfamiliar with new technologies and thus may be suspect of both protocols using them for information collection and the consequences of distributed data sharing via them, even when done ethically.

In a pair of workshops, we hope to address models of sharing, comparing, and using IRB-submitted protocols to leverage best practices in protocols that can then be used to increase consistency in protocols across institutions, provide models for data sharing while protecting subjects, and help to gain acceptance for models of informed consent and other issues that are pressing in digital environments and with young subjects.