Knowing your ABCs: Learning from the IRB process

Nov 22 2013

My team, Greetings From, needed both IRB approval and individual permission from each of the school districts we wanted to work with for our team’s kid-centric news product.

Greetings From is an international, kid-centric postcard service that, unlike traditional news sources, is written by children from around the world. The content is collected by NGOs and delivered digitally to subscribers both in and out of the classroom.

And if you don’t know, IRB stands for Institutional Review Board.

It is a committee established to review and approve research involving human subjects, with the primary purpose of protecting the rights and welfare of the human subjects. The reason the Institutional Review Board exists is because by the beginning of the twentieth century, there were rampant ethical problems involving humans in scientific experimentation. And until 1966, there was no way of regulating research on subjects.

Today every research institute working with human subjects has to be approved by its institution’s review board before conducting research.

And knowing all this, we still took on this challenge of researching with an “at-risk population,” because we believed in our product.

Our project revolves around kids.

From the beginning of this semester, the Greetings From team has been working to get our product in front of our most important consumer: kids.

We learned from the IRB process that when you’re dealing with “at-risk” populations, every stone must be turned over, every last piece must be examined and the words you use must be as non-invasive as possible.

And understandably so: Kids are under the protection of multiple guardians in and out of schools and those guardians need to provide consent to access kids. This includes: IRB approval, school district approval, administrator consent, teacher collaboration, parental consent, and of course, child assent to participate.

We wanted to work with a large age range; we had to specify our language for 7- to 13-year-olds and 14- to 17-year-olds. We needed consent forms for parents and assent forms for children. Our protocol had to include awareness for kids who didn’t want to participate and or didn’t get approval to participate. We had to exclude any hint of coercion from our recruitment emails. With every round of stipulations from the board we refined our idea, what we wanted to know, the best way to get our information, and how to do this all within ethical bounds.

And we got it. We have approval to research with local students and now know our protocol like no other and are stronger because of the IRB experience.

Greetings From got the IRB approval, we have one district approval, and we will be able to conduct our research and share our virtual product with local kids because it is a cool idea that we believe in. And we think teachers and kids will, too.

References

Schneider, William H. “HISTORY OF IRB.” HISTORY OF IRB. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Nov. 2013.

Frequently asked questions about the IRB


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