Institutional review boards

Influential and sometimes controversial, institutional review boards are panels charged with protecting the rights of humans who participate in research studies ranging from biomedicine to social science. Boston College Professor of Sociology Sarah Babb takes a look at IRBs in her new book Regulating Human Research: IRBs from Peer Review to Compliance Bureaucracy (Stanford University Press, 2020). Babb, who served three years on BC’s IRB, traces the historic transformation of IRBs from academic committees to compliance bureaucracies: non-governmental offices where specialized staff define and apply federal regulations. She argues this evolution has had unforeseen consequences, including the rise of a profitable ethics review industry. Babb talks about her book in a Q&A with Inside Higher Ed.

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