Academic Regulation of Research: Human Subjects restrictions

Chuck Grimes cgrimes at
Fri Aug 25 21:33:18 PDT 2000

Of course, both experiments and deceptive interviews can be abused, but it seems bizarre to leave the structures of power and systematic deception in place in our society, while banning research that might expose that power.

Any counter thoughts justifying the whole "human subject" review committee phenomena?

-- Nathan Newman

[Some excerpts from the article: Volume 10, No. 6 - September 2000, Don't Talk to the Humans, The Crackdown on Social Science Research, Christopher Shea]



The problem which put human subject studies at UCB into a high profile wasn't mentioned and dates from about six or seven years ago.

The Psychology and Education Depts.(I think) conducted a series of studies of poor high school girls who were pregnant or had just had children in several counties in and round the Bay Area. In order to get the subjects and then get them to participate in the study, the researchers pulled some strings in the country welfare department, school district offices, and the juvenile justice system. It was extremely intimidating and coercive.

The subjects were under the assumption that their welfare benefits would be withdrawn and they may face disciplinary action from their high schools. Several of the subjects (I think) were on probation in the juvenile justice system and therefore their status as the legal guardian of their children was also threatened. In effect the researchers used the University's status as a state institution to gain access to the subjects under other state institution control and of course access whatever records and files were kept. Most of the subjects were African Americans or other minorities, and of course at the time Wilson was governor.

Some progressive lawyer group got a hold of the case that was started by either the subjects or their parents, or their communities, and after a lot media and some court action, the study was stopped. I think it was one of those on-going state contract type studies that had continued over several years of tracking.

Anyway, as you can guess, there was a huge reaction in campus research and every research proposal got volumes of forms to fill out checking off this and that item on human subjects even if they were studying plants, rocks, outer space.

So with that background, hopefully you can figure out why UCB over-reacted. There are additional worries in the bio science community too, especially at UCSF (the medical school in SF) were they are just waiting for a high profile AIDS or gene research study to backfire on their sneaky asses. This would probably blow up some of their carefully nurtured contracts and business deals with the pharmaceutical and medical industries.

They know some nightmare is just waiting to happen.

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