Blanket IRB approvals for linguistics

There’s been some discussion on a colleague’s FB page about blanket IRB approvals for specific departments.  Apparently, Penn State Center for Language Sciences has one that covers all but ERP studies, as do Ohio State, Stanford, UMass, and possibly Santa Cruz.  Do readers know of any others?  Do you think this is a good thing?


3 Responses to Blanket IRB approvals for linguistics

  1. jacrippen says:

    It’s good and bad. Students should have to go through the approval process at least once, since they may end up working somewhere without a blanket. Existing methodologies like EGG, palatography, ultrasound, and so forth should probably have a methodology review on file. That would allow the IRB to safely say that, as long as the researcher is using the documented methodology, the IRB has approved of it and has checked the consent forms and so forth. Work with ‘at-risk’ populations should probably be excepted from the blanket too, so that people working with criminals, small children, the mentally disabled, and locally persecuted groups, should have to go through the full IRB process. But to be fair, most linguistic work is with perfectly ordinary people, with non-invasive methods, and with riskless data, so that most studies really don’t need much of an IRB review at all.

  2. Claire says:

    Some Canadian universities have argued (successfully, I believe) for blanket exemptions from review for First Nations language work, on the grounds that the linguists are working with skilled language experts, not naive research participants.

    I wonder how this sort of blanket non-review works when the researcher is applying for research grants. Many grant organizations require proof of review (or of exemption).

  3. natashawarner says:

    A colleague of mine wrote to me about this, too. I can’t imagine my university’s Human Subjects Office considering any sort of “blanket” approval for a method. I think they assume that the interaction between method, subject population, recruitment methods, and topic of study is large. That is, a given method may be fine for one topic of study but not for another, may be fine for one recruitment method but not another, fine if it only lasts a certain duration, etc. The method by itself is not the primary determiner of whether something can be approved. I think they feel there are far too many determining factors to just except the problematic categories from a blanket approval. Also, since “umbrella projects” are specifically listed as illegal in the U.S., I’m not sure how “blanket approvals” get around that. (I guess blankets aren’t umbrellas, though.)

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