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When Lee Strucker in Human Resources heard that the Center’s Institutional Review Board needed community members for its research review committees, he thought of his father-in-law and suggested that he consider it. Now Dick Erickson, a retired neuropsychologist, is the IRB’s newest volunteer.
Retired scientists or health care professionals are among the ideal candidates for the IRB, whose members are must review all Center research proposals that involve human subjects before any work can proceed.
The purpose of IRB review is to ensure that research activities involving human subjects comply with ethical standards, applicable regulations and Center policies relating to the care and protection of human subjects.
Having a scientific or medical background is not required. The IRB’s goal is to have a wide cross section of society represented by its community members, according to James Riddle, assistant director of institutional review.
“The work is very rewarding for anyone with a prior scientific background because they can stay engaged,” said Riddle. “For nonscientists, being an IRB member offers an opportunity to contribute in an important way to the advancement of medical science.
“We primarily look for interest and time commitment,” Riddle said. “The only remuneration is cookies at the meetings.”
Keeping engaged with science is one reason that Erickson decided to join the IRB.
Federal law requires IRBs to have members with sufficient experience, expertise and diversity to promote respect for advice and counsel that they provide. To obtain the proper IRB composition to satisfy regulatory requirements, at least one member must be someone who does not have Center affiliation and is not an immediate family member of an affiliate. This need for community members is ongoing.
Community IRB members agree to serve for two years and commit 20 hours per month to the task, usually during a single week. Each sits on an IRB committee (general oncology, biobehavioral research, infectious diseases and the HIV Vaccine Trials Network) and on a subcommittee. Serving on the IRB is a significant responsibility. Members are required to read a great deal in preparation for the meetings at which they will review and discuss research proposals submitted for approval.
“Our IRB community members are engaged with the research review and the scientists,” Riddle said. "Many times they will challenge the scientists to articulate the scientific concepts in language that is clear to a lay person so that the research subjects can better understand what they are being asked to do. Our community volunteers are very good at doing this.”
All research activities (protocols) involving human subjects that Center staff propose or will carry out must receive review and approval by an IRB prior to implementation. All amendments or revisions to ongoing approved human subjects research activities must also receive review and approval prior to implementation.
Center staff members who want to learn more about IRB opportunities or who want to refer someone they know as a potential committee member should contact Karen Hansen, director of the Institutional Review Office, at (206) 667-4867 or firstname.lastname@example.org.