The Institutional Review Board (IRB) at Reed helps students with monitoring ethics and privacy during research. Any institution that does research involving human subjects (research on the spectrum from injecting people with substances to simply asking them questions) has an IRB to help with ethics and privacy in addition to foreign research regulations. Even though Reed is not a dedicated research institution, many students here do research at some point or another. The IRB wants people at Reed to have an ethical experience without having to take an ethics class due to the fact that some people’s only experience with research at Reed is their senior thesis.
The IRB at Reed recently added new training modules for doing research involving living participants. Before this change, researchers at Reed were only required to do training modules if they were working with people in Europe, if they were working with children, if they were working with animals (and a few other specific circumstances), or if they were receiving federal funding for their research. That meant that there were no training modules required to work with Americans if the research was not federally funded.
IRB Administrative Coordinator Kayla Johnston had been suggesting for 7 years to make the modules mandatory for students who did not receive federal funding for their research. Her reasoning was that it would level the playing field, and to prevent people from excluding non-Americans from their study for the sake of doing less training. Reed also pays for the modules, so it isn’t an added cost to ask students who do not have federal funding to complete them as well, especially when they only take about an hour. In addition to this, the faculty members that are not from Reed that sit on the IRB (which is a requirement) have stated that the institutions from which they hail have already been asking students without federal funding to complete these modules anyway. These modules can be incorporated into classes as well (it’s called the basic human subjects investigator training). There are a ton of additional, optional modules available for anyone who wants to do them including modules to learn to work with children, public schools, and many other demographics.
If you are doing research for a class that you think may become public some day, get involved with the IRB! IRB chair Sameer ud Dowla Khan expressed that it’s impossible for someone to retroactively get approved to do research through the IRB, so if you’re thinking of doing research that has a possibility of becoming public, it’s best to get approved through the IRB anyway (research that is for class and class only and does not have a possibility of becoming public does not need to be approved through the IRB).
On top of all of this, the IRB has social justice intern Mia Huynh working on infographics and the IRB website in order to make the IRB seem more approachable for students. The IRB wants to break the perceived notion that they are a barrier to research, and connect more with the Reed community.