Oral History and IRBs

Students, and their advisors, working on the history of the 20th century should take a look at the article on “Oral History Under Review” in this week’s Chronicle of Higher Education. The Association is on record as objecting to the often arbitrary application of IRB rules, which use criteria that seem wholly inappropriate to our field. The report documents a number of troubling cases that reinforce those concerns.

As the report also suggests, however, the history profession can and should do a better job in preparing students to conduct oral history research. Directors of graduate studies and dissertation advisors need to guide their students in how to conduct oral history in a professional manner, even if their own subjects of research are long dead. The AHA Council endorsed the Oral History Association’s Evaluation Guidelines as one of the best measures of professional standards in this area.

Please note that I will be serving as the guest in an online Colloquy about this issue on Wednesday at noon.

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