December 17, 2007
Facebook and IRB Approval
Posted by Christine Hurt

The NYT today has an article about university professors and graduate students using Facebook for research purposes.  The whole time I'm reading the article, I'm thinking, "Do they need consent to get IRB approval for that?"  At the end of the article, the reporter notes that whether this type of research requires consent of the subjects varies by institution -- at Harvard, no, at Indiana, probably yes. 

Speaking of consent from subjects, my daughter was asked to be in a study by a kinesiology researcher here at U of I.  She had earlier been in a linguistics study, so she was game for this one as well.  However, when reading the material, I noticed that she would have to have a blood test and a ten-minute body scan.  For Carter, who is 8 years old, asking for either of those things voluntarily would be nearly impossible.  The consent letter described the blood test as comparable to a bee sting, but telling that to a child is like comparing something to a snake bite.  So, I decided that we would have to pass on this study, even though I understand that research is necessary for the public good.  (This study was to compare children with low BMI index to children with high BMI index.)  I suppose this was just one glimpse into the difficulties in health-related scientific research.

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