Apparently I am doing oral history

I spent hours and hours to write an application to get Institutional Review Board approval for my coming dissertation research since the interviews I might (not even “will” ) have could fall under “human subjects research.” Last week my application was returned since a lot of information was missing. That means I had to spend another few days rewriting it. Sigh. Seriously, I just want to ask simple questions about what they remember from the Japanese colonial period. The whole IRB thing is designed for medical and psychological experiments and surveys, and it just does not fit historical research.

While I was putting this off, I got an email from God the Oral History Research Office of my university, saying that my research probably falls under Oral History, which is “excluded” from IRB inspection. THANK GOODNESS! I have just talked to the director of this OHRO, and I am liberated from IRB. This is a good lesson for historians. Find out if your university’s IRB has an oral history exemption.

Category(s): My Grad School Life

3 Responses to Apparently I am doing oral history

  1. This is orders of magnitude less in scope and complexity compared to what you are dealing with, but I remember back in high school when participating in the science fair that if you used animals or humans in any way for your project, you had to fill out tons of paperwork, release forms, etc. even if you were doing nothing more than a simple questionnaire/survey. Of course my projects were always in the math/physics category so I never had to deal with any of that.

    Still though, I have colleagues that do cancer research, and the sheer amount of paperwork they have to go through just for testing on rats is unbelievable. I can’t imagine how much worse it would be for human subjects.

  2. In theory, all IRBs should have an Oral History exemption, as both the premier history associations and leading IRB guidance groups have repeatedly said that oral history doesn’t compute with the definitions of ‘research’ used by IRBs. That they don’t, and you had to go through this at all, demonstrates a kind of institutional inertia with regard to letting go of power that speaks very poorly of academics.

    Another Jonathan says:

    I wish someone had told my IRB that I was doing Oral History and that it should be excluded…

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