An entity to which all researchers are accountable and which is accountable to no one.
A juggernaut that accrues ever more power from our ever increasing safety-ism plus fear of lawsuits, and yet whose dictates are increasingly out of line with our shared common sense.
Some people have taken note:
From the summary:
[Schneider] concludes that IRBs were fundamentally misconceived. Their usefulness to human subjects is doubtful, but they clearly delay, distort, and deter research that can save people’s lives, soothe their suffering, and enhance their welfare. IRBs demonstrably make decisions poorly. They cannot be expected to make decisions well, for they lack the expertise, ethical principles, legal rules, effective procedures, and accountability essential to good regulation. And IRBs are censors in the place censorship is most damaging—universities.
I would add that IRBs are especially misconceived when it comes to selectively “protecting” human subjects from educational interventions.
Not that educational interventions aren’t ever harmful: schools can and do inflict all kinds of educational harm on the nation’s school children, and on a routine basis–from Balanced Literacy to Everyday Math.
But it’s only when outsiders try to research alternative educational interventions that IRBs wield power, throwing up ever more forbidding obstacles in the paths of those of us who wish to discover more effective alternatives to educational methods that have been failing our school kids for decades.