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> University human subjects committees (called IRBs by the Mericans) have
> an awful lot of discretionary power and are subject to fads. If they
> start believing that SNA itself is intrinsically pernicious or
> dangerous, then much of our research will stop cold in its tracks.
IRBs approve studies on a per-project basis, and are more likely to
approve projects where there is a very clear explanation of the
methodologies and practices being used.
We've seen very similar patterns with the IU IRB in the last few years -
as they've come to more clearly understand what computer-mediated
communication research 'ought to look like', it has gotten easier and
easier for us to get them to approve projects that use public, online
Establishing a pattern of structured, ethical, sound research is a good
way to make friends with your IRB members ;)
I have a hard time believing that IRBs - American or otherwise - are
likely to start rejecting projects just because the words "network" or
"social network" are included. That just doesn't make sense - if all of
the legal and ethical 'bases' are covered, there'll be no reason to
concern themselves with the project. The responsibility for making the
ethical and moral dimension of a research project clear lies with the
researcher, not with the university-level staff who interpret it.
I suppose it is possible that university counsel could 'suggest' to the
IRB staff that particular sociological methodologies are inappropriate,
but that too seems unlikely and extremely difficult to implement.
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