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Oversight IRB helps resolve issues
Committee provides networking, education
Large research institutions can improve IRB consistency, education, and networking by establishing an oversight board that will bring IRB chairs together at committee meetings.
The City University of New York (CUNY) in New York City has 20 IRBs handling research protocols at CUNY's many campuses across the city.
One way the diverse institution makes certain IRB members are aware of new policy and regulatory information is by having each IRB's chair meet as part of the institution's oversight IRB, says Patricia MacCubbin, MS, executive director of research conduct and special advisor to the vice chancellor for research at CUNY.
The oversight committee also serves as an appeals board and as the IRB for research initiated by the institution's central office, she says.
For example, if a librarian plans to conduct a system-wide research project, he or she will submit the protocol to the oversight committee for review, she says.
"We rarely have anything that rises to the level of a convened meeting review," MacCubbin notes. "A lot of what we do at meetings involves educational purposes."
A regulatory or other issue that arises at one IRB might be something other IRBs will need to learn more about and eventually deal with. When the committee meets solely for educational purposes, then there is no vote and the meeting is not convened.
"We've only had one protocol that went to the convened meeting of the board, and it was about four years ago," MacCubbin recalls. "We made sure our nonscientist and community member were represented."
The oversight committee's meetings are held irregularly, but typically at least twice a semester, she adds.
"It's difficult to find a meeting time," she adds. "The trick is for us to try to find a day or week or month when we can get a good representation of IRB chairs there."
MacCubbin also views the oversight committee's role as one that involves networking.
"I bring the IRB chairs together, and they get to know each other and trust each other, learning how each IRB works and what they know," she explains. "The networking helps them understand where the other people are coming from, and it helps them learn to trust them."
The oversight committee's role as an appeals board gives investigators an option to follow if their study is not approved by the IRB handling their protocol.
"If an investigator's study is not approved at his campus, then he can appeal at the campus level," MacCubbin says. "If it's disapproved again, then he can go to the CUNY-wide IRB and appeal."
The oversight committee will conduct its own review, and its decision is final.
"If they disapprove you, you're done because the administration does not get involved," MacCubbin says.
"It's an interesting appeals process," she notes. "We haven't had one go through the process yet in my five years here, but the faculty knows it's available."