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ISR to conduct survey of investigator experiences

This fall the Institute for Social Research (ISR) will conduct the second online Survey of Investigator Experiences in Human Research.

The results from the first survey, conducted in fall 2007, established a set of empirically based benchmarks describing experience with the Institutional Review Board (IRB) review and approval process, the usability of the eResearch system, access to and use of resources related to human subjects research, and attitudes towards research practices.

The results also provided information to IRB administrators on the Ann Arbor campus about investigator experience with the regulatory system for conducting human subjects research. The surveys are being conducted in collaboration with the Office of the Vice President for Research. ISR retains all data from the surveys and results are reported only in summary form.

Results from the first survey are available at Key findings include:

• Investigators support the concept of an ethical/regulatory review of research, but often take exception with the way it operates and is implemented in practice by the IRBs, especially the length of time it takes to review and approve an application.

• A majority of applications are returned to investigators to make changes before they are approved. Typically, changes involve the informed consent document or process.

• eResearch widely is viewed as challenging to use.

• IRB staff members generally are viewed as knowledgeable, respectful, and approachable.

• Investigators are interested in learning about ways to navigate the regulatory process more quickly and efficiently.

"We're conducting this second survey to understand the nature of any changes that have occurred over time in how investigators experience the regulatory system on campus for conducting human subjects research," says Jim Lepkowski, the ISR research professor leading the survey team. "To make this assessment it will be important that researchers from a broad range of disciplines take the opportunity to talk about their experiences with the IRB review process."

Participants in the survey will be selected from campus principal investigators — faculty, staff and students — who have active research projects involving human subjects in the eResearch system.

"We know that concerns about confidentiality may determine, in part, whether someone participates in a survey. ISR has been protecting the identity of research participants for more 60 years. We'll keep the identity of survey participants confidential," Lepkowski says.

The survey is scheduled to begin in early November. Investigators selected for the survey will receive a formal invitation from ISR. Preliminary findings from the survey are planned for release in early 2010.

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