The American Historical Association formally requested that oral history be excluded from the list of topics subject to "expedited review" last week, in response to a recent request for comments from the Office of Human Research Protections. The letter, approved by the Association’s executive committee, cites the profession’s "long and unhappy experience with the way these policies have been implemented," and concludes that IRB oversight is in "conflict with the essential canons of our practice."
The letter also expresses concern about a proposed change to the guidelines that removes the exemption for "Research involving materials (data, documents, records, or specimens) that…will be collected solely for nonresearch purposes." This change could potentially further extend IRB purview over gathering, archiving, and future use of oral histories and similar materials.
In addition to the comments submitted by the AHA, a number of members have copied us on their own submissions to OHRP. One of the most useful, surveying the historical background of the relationship between history and the IRB regime, was prepared by Zachary Schrag (an assistant professor at George Mason University) and posted on Institutional Review Blog. Many thanks to the members who responded so energetically to this opportunity.