Thursday, 1 March 2007

Burke on IRBs

Timothy Burke talks sense about Institutional Review Boards and federal oversight thereof, at least as applied to the humanities and social sciences.

Incidentally, many IRBs (including those at SLU and Duke) have asserted that the use of secondary data on human subjects is also subject to their oversight, even if completely anonymized as is the case of the American National Election Studies and General Social Survey. Apparently this requirement exists just in case junior faculty members on the tenure clock didn’t have enough useless paperwork to fill out… or maybe it’s just bureaucratic turf-building by non-academics who wouldn’t recognize social scientific research if it snuck up behind them and interviewed them for six hours.

An allegory for our times (particularly in Debian)

On my flight from St. Louis to Denver today (not my final destination, mind you), I had the distinct displeasure of sitting right in front of three or four half-loaded idiots on their way to some sort of ski vacation in Colorado, who engaged in the following obnoxious behaviors, among others:

  • Repeatedly hitting the flight attendant call button.
  • Using the word “fuck” liberally in conversation, usually 3–4 times per sentence.
  • Having an extended discussion of airplane crashes.
  • Asking the flight attendant repeatedly if they could smoke aboard the aircraft.

While their level of obnoxiousness probably didn’t rise to the level at which I would have supported them being hogtied by an air marshal, hauled off to Gitmo, or forcibly ejected from the aircraft at altitude, in large part because my in-canal earphones and some additional volume on the iPod effectively muted them for about 3/4 of the flight, I can’t imagine I would have put up much of an objection to any or all of these actions—and idly contemplated taking such actions myself.