As a qualitative researcher, my work often demands that I complete Internal Reviews through Institutional Internal Review Boards (IRBs). Doing an IRB is not easy, often lacking in a solid foundation and changing the “rules” from case to case. I have found, however, that it is very helpful in putting the researcher in the right mindset as they enter the field. Much damage can be done from a simple interview and the power relations between “researcher” and the individual being researched is often oppressive, despite the interviewers best intentions.
Human Subjects reviews are so complex largely because they were created for one discipline but have penetrated the silo walls and the same standards are used for the humanities, sciences, medicine, etc. At Virginia Tech, the mission statement reads as follows:
Virginia Tech is committed to protecting the rights of and ensuring the safety of human subjects participating in research conducted by faculty, staff and students of the University and for research in which Virginia Tech is engaged. This commitment is vested in the Institutional Review Board for Research Involving Human Subjects (the IRB), and is guided by the ethical principles described in the “Belmont Report” and in applicable federal regulations.
While it is not always easy to navigate the red tape, I find that it is worth it for the sake of prevention.