Institutional Review Boards

In 2004, I became increasingly interested in the operations of Institutional Review Boards, bodies that monitor research with human subjects by affiliates of universities and other research institutions. I am particularly interested in how these boards, established to govern medical and psychological research, affect the work of scholars in the social sciences and humanities, as well as journalism.

This interest has led to the following projects:


    • The Institutional Review Blog.
      Launched in December 2006, this blog tracks scholarship and policy developments concerning IRB oversight of research in the social sciences and humanities.
    • IRB Documents: Public-domain documents on the IRB debate not easily found elsewhere.


Outsourcing Ethics,” review of Regulating Human Research: IRBs from Peer Review to Compliance Bureaucracy by Sarah Babb. Academe, Fall 2020, 55-58.


Zachary M. Schrag, “Balanced Ethics Review: A Guide for Institutional Review Board Members. By Simon N. Whitney,” Oral History Review, accessed May 30, 2017, doi:10.1093/ohr/ohx030.


“Ethical Pluralism: Scholarly Societies and the Regulation of Research Ethics,” in The Ethics Rupture: Exploring Alternatives to Formal Research-Ethics Review, edited by Will C. van den Hoonaard and Ann Hamilton. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2016.


“Will the Federal Government Finally Deregulate Oral History?,” American Historian, November 2015, 20-22.


You Can’t Ask That.” Washington Monthly, September/October 2014.

“What Is This Thing Called Research?” in Human Subjects Research Regulation: Perspectives on the Future, eds. I. Glenn Cohen and Holly Fernandez Lynch. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2014.


Journal of Policy History, Volume 23, issue 1 (January 2011). Special issue on the regulation of human subjects research. (Guest editor.)




  • Ethical Training for Oral Historians.
    In this essay for the March 2007 issue of the American Historical Association”s newsletter, Perspectives, I argued that “the training required by IRBs does more than waste historians” time. It misinforms researchers about their rights and responsibilities, and it distracts historians from the task of developing relevant ethical training for new interviewers.”