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Proposed changes to human research protection “Common Rule”

This announcement is posted by Chad Nilep. It does not reflect a position of the Society for Linguistic Anthropology, its officers, or any members other than Nilep.

The US Department of Health and Human Services has announced an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking [sic] regarding the Common Rule. The Common Rule regulates human research protections for work supported by many US government agencies, and as such has a large influence on the practices of Institutional Review Boards and US universities, research institutes, agencies, and the like.

As many linguistic anthropologists who have sought IRB review can tell you, the process tends to be biased toward biomedical research, making it sometimes difficult for ethnographers, discourse analysts, linguists, and others to understand and negotiate. It appears (though I am just beginning to wade through the material myself) that HHS recognizes that problems exist and is seeking input from researchers on ways to change the Common Rule.

  • The HHS announcement, including instructions on how to submit comments, is here.
  • A summary and guide to the questionnaire, produced by Zachary M. Schrag of Institutional Review Blog, is here.
  • The LSA Ethics Discussion Blog also has a post on the proposed revisions here.

I have merely skimmed this information myself; I may have more to say about it after reading more carefully. However, since the deadline to submit comments is 26 September, I wanted to bring the issue to the attention of SLA members and other interested scholars as quickly as possible.

[UPDATE 9/6/2011: The comment period has been extended to Wednesday, October 26, 2011.

There is also a short article on the process of the rule-change at the Chronicle of Higher Education.]

1 thought on “Proposed changes to human research protection “Common Rule””

  1. Sandra Chung has posted a letter to the Office of Human Research Protections on behalf of the Linguistic Society of America commenting on the proposed changes. In it she argues that the range of research methods used, types of data gathered, and sociocultural settings where research is performed make a biomedical model, including HIPAA privacy policies, inappropriate for some linguistic research. As a result, she argues, local IRBs should retain sufficient autonomy to ensure that protective measures are appropriate to the subjects, the data, and the setting of particular research projects.

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