I won’t serve on my IRB, but there is a way I can still help.

Steve Simon


I had offered to help out our local IRB but was not careful to clarify how I could help. This resulted in me being appointed as an alternate member of the IRB. That’s not a good role for me because of my conflict of interest. I work with a large number of clients through the Research and Statistical Consult Service (RSCS), and would have a hard time providing an impartial review of an IRB application that I had some role in developing. Also, for researchers who have not worked with the RSCS, if there protocols had major statistical flaws, I would be uncomfortable asking them to consult with the RSCS, as it might appear that I’m trying to artificially build demand for the RSCS. So I’ll have to turn down this role. But there is another way I could help.

Most IRBs attempt to track their performance through regular audits. This could produce statistics like the number of protocols reviewed, the waiting times in various stages of the review process, and the ultimate outcome of the reviews. It could involve a review of final reports to see how frequently the target sample sizes were achieved. It could involve an investigation of where and how the results of the research got published.

Unless an audit focuses on an individual project or investigator, there is likely to be some element of statistical sampling and data analysis involved. This is where I could help. I won’t do any data collection or data entry, but I will provide advice during these phases, and I’ll help produce numerical summaries of these results.

You can find an earlier version of this page on my original website.