IRB: Ethics & Human Research

Researcher Experiences with IRBs: A Survey of Members of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology

In order to characterize the impact of institutional review boards on neuropsychiatric investigations, we conducted a Web-based survey among members of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ACNP), which is dedicated to brain, behavior, and psychopharmacology research. Respondents were federally funded and very familiar with IRB procedures. The majority believed that IRBs strengthened public trust in research and enhanced subject protection. However, the majority also felt that the review process inherently stigmatized the mentally ill, falsely assuming that their illness robs them of capacity to provide informed consent to research participation. Some also reported that they had abandoned research ideas because they felt that the likelihood of IRB approval was low. To address these concerns, we recommend that mental health researchers be included on IRBs and that other members be better educated regarding the decision-making capacity of people with mental disorders. We also recommend that a registry of common neuropsychiatry problems—drawn from real-life cases and documenting the changes to protocols that allowed them to move forward—be created for IRBs’ reference.
Key words/concepts: human subjects research, research ethics, institutional review boards, informed consent, vulnerable populations, capacity to consent, mental illness

Katherine L. Wisner, Robert R. Conley, Stephan F. Taylor, Thomas Kosten, Mark Hyman Rapaport, and Lawrence S. Brown, “Researcher Experiences with IRBs: A Survey of Members of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology,” IRB: Ethics & Human Research 33, no. 5 (2011): 14-20.