On SSSI-talk there was recently a debate about IRBs that coincides with the publication in Symbolic Interaction of Jack Katz‘s fine review of Laura Stark’s book ‘Behind Closed Doors‘ published by the University of Chicago Press in 2012.
Katz praises Stark’s study for being “creatively designed, sensitively analyzed, reliably documented, and elegantly terse”. He points out that the book (not surprisingly) neglects qualitative social researchers because IRBs originally were setup “to play the ethical supervision role for nonmedical research”. In consequence the application of methods of supervision designed for the biomedical sciences on qualitative research by IRBs bears the danger to compromise “freedoms of inquiry”.
The review and the book are well worthwhile a read. Related reviews of recent books by Ruth Horowitz (“In the Public Interest”) and Will van den Hoonaard (“The Seduction of Ethics”) are in preparation.