Saturday, May 17, 2008

Institutional Review Boards and misattribution

The Institutional Review Blog, in which I have a certain interest, regularly catalogs the failings of IRBs with respect to history and allied disciplines. Now it reports on the damage IRBs do to participatory research, and one story in particular stood out to me:
Elwood enlisted non-scholars as "community map makers" in a participatory project. Though these map makers were, in effect, co-authors, her IRB wanted their names stripped from the maps. (333) Eventually, the authors agreed to remove the names from maps printed in academic publications. Thus, the IRB denied the map makers credit for their work.
The IRB forced the researcher to commit what would, in other countries, be a moral rights violation. I'm no fan of attribution rights, but that's because I think ethics should be brought to bear on the problem. The IRB here acted not to further ethical behavior but to suppress it, and that's a shame.

(There's also an interesting reference to a researcher who "had to have [her] friends sign confidentiality and copyright agreements as [she] served them a cup of tea and a biscuit in [her] home.")

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