YET ONE MORE EXAMPLE OF HOW PUBLIC UNIVERSITIES WASTE TAXPAYERS’ DOLLARS

 

In present economic times when the continuation of jobs and positions in higher education is uncertain, some university departments have found novel ways to ensure they will be “needed”.  A prime example is the Institutional Review Board (IRB). The IRB was originally established to ensure that research is performed ethically and to protect the rights of human research participants – an unarguably good cause. Every university in the United States that receives federal funding (and most do) has an IRB who supposedly all have a common mission of holding their university’s researchers to the same ethical standards. However, IRBs from different universities refuse to collaborate with one another.  It is common practice for researchers from different universities to collaborate on research projects, yet each researcher must separately seek IRB approval from their respective university’s IRB office. It would seem that if an IRB approves the research project at one university, the same research project would be considered ethical at other universities as well.  Hence, one IRB approval should suffice. But this would streamline the process – increasing efficiency and decreasing the amount of work hours for IRB employees (not to mention saving work hours for university researchers too).  Efficiency and higher education administration just don’t seem to go together. After expressing frustration at this situation, I’ve been told behind closed doors that it is believed this is so the IRB can ensure they keep their jobs by showing how much “work” they have done.  Interestingly, the IRB at my own university has also recently begun to conduct audits of research projects. I’ve worked on projects with IRB approval for the past ten years and have never been audited until the past month, in which both of the IRB-approved research projects with which I am involved have received audit notices. Both of the projects are anonymous survey research – hardly anything that puts its participants at any kind of high risk. I believe this is just one more novel way to make their jobs seem necessary and just one of many examples of administrative bloat in higher education.

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