Congratulations to the
15 Public Anthropology Award Winners
at the University of Nevada, Reno
in Prof. Steven Holm's
ANTH 101 (Introduction to Cultural Anthropology)


Kylie Hamburg, Geenamarie Carucci, Carolyn Farley, Erica Hicks, Veronica Charles , Wen Wei, Itohan Osayaren, Joshua Heatwole, Kalynn DeBates, Emma Brooks, Steffini Amezquita, Tori Sandoval, Emily Gould, Allison Mering and Jeff Toy

(To Read Their Op-Eds, Please Use Your Search Function)

Topic the Students Wrote On:

Based on the information presented in the five case studies, you are to voice your view on how Institutional Review Boards (in the U.S.) and/or Review Ethics Boards (in Canada) should enforce a set of common rules regarding research. How much freedom should researchers be allowed in conducting their research? What regulations should be enforced to prevent the abuse of research subjects and ensure, more generally,
that the research strives to promote positive benefits for the
larger society sponsoring it?


A Positive Benefit for Society
by Kylie Hamburg

Imagine living in a world with no doctors, vaccines, or even general over the counter medicine for that matter. Imagine not knowing what is outside the limits of what we know as earth. Imagine living in a world full of complete mystery, with no theory behind how or what we do in our day-to-day lives. We live in a research based society. However, with research comes experimentation, and that is the issue at hand. Where is the line between too much and not enough, and how is that enforced? There is no precise answer, although, research should only be conducted with a probable reason behind it and certain regulations.

In 1964, human experiments were conducted in Guatemala by the United States to get a better understanding of how syphilis is contracted as well as passed on. In the mean time, "Guatemala doctors deliberately infected healthy people with the diseases some of which are fatal if untreated" which was a side effect of the penicillin research.

There is a fine line between productive research and people deliberately being infected in order to see the result, and calling it research. Research is conducted to acquire further information: "The National Research Act (Pub. L. 93-348) was signed into law [to create] ethical principles that should underlie the conduct of biomedical and behavioral research involving human subjects and to develop guidelines which should be followed to assure that such research is conducted in accordance with those principles." The National Research Act provides protection for human subjects from research of all forms. Researchers could argue that without first hand human experimentation, concepts like penicillin research could not be suitably conducted, and we would not know the accurate effects it has on the human body. With how far technology has come, the human body - cells and all - could effortlessly be recreated without being considered a living human being, and testing could truly continue.

The Institutional Review Boards "has the authority to approve, require modifications in, or disapprove all research activities that fall within its jurisdiction as specified by both the federal regulations and local institutional policy." With such authority, they have the power to change regulations and enforce new ones to create research with positive benefits for society. When it comes to research, there is a vast grey area. Society is beginning to question the unspecified, and the diversity of research as well as how it is being conducted. Ideally, research should be strictly limited to medical matters and science, with approval of not only the IRBs but also society as a whole. Researchers should be required to receive approval, as well as to strictly abide by the regulations put in place. Research needs to be kept on a positive benefit basis, with the mentality to only better the society we live in today.


The Middle Ground
by Geenamarie Carucci

The world we live in today has dramatically changed from the one in which these five case studies were performed. Just as we're facing governmental over-step problems, for example NSA, so are anthropologists with the IRB. However, if there is one thing these case studies tell us, it's that Anthropologists should not be able to roam unfettered, but they should not be tied to a pole either. There should be more of a balance between governmental oversight and free rein. The middle ground is one in which field work is not squashed, humans are not harmed, and useful research is found to benefit the larger society.

In 1946 innocent people were injected with syphilis by U.S doctors in Guatemala to see the effects that penicillin had on the venereal disease. Not one of the 1,500 people provided informed consent to be inoculated with the disease or to participate in the experiment. Out of the people infected, eighty three of them died. Along with completely ignoring the human rights of these people, the Guatemalan government was kept in the dark about what the doctors were doing to the Guatemalan people.

The Guatemala Syphilis experiment is absolutely eye opening, and reflects negatively on the United States. Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, called the experiments "a dark chapter in history of medicine" and that "modern rules absolutely prohibit conducting human subject research without formed [sic] consent." Due to the inhuman acts of Anthropologists in the 40's something had to be done, and I agree with the rules promulgated by the IRB to control these researchers. Another extreme case that occurred, was the Aboriginal people on Vancouver Island. They were malnourished and the researchers thought these people would create a great study for the effects of diet and vitamins. Once again consent was not obtained from the test subjects and the researchers went so far as to suspend dental care to the population to measure how the diets were affecting the children. Such conduct is cruel and inhumane.

These researchers needed to be constrained and overseen, and that is exactly what the IRB did. Anthropologists now know they are supposed to obtain consent for anything that they do involving human subjects, and that they are supposed to talk and evaluate, doing the least harm possible to the group they are with.

The IRB did its job restricting the extreme abuses, but in the process they have taken it to another extreme. Those experiments referred to earlier were in the 40's, it currently is 2013. They handled the inhumane research and fixed the problems so that they don't recur and they have adopted rules and guidelines that Anthropologists now have to follow. However, now they are going above and beyond what is required. They are taking the rules too far and are encroaching on field work and research. Mitch Smith interviewed Laura Stark who sat with Institutional Review Boards on deeming cases unethical, unrealistic, or illegal. According to her, a grammar mistake can ruin the whole process, "concern over typos and written mistakes in applications is not a matter of fairness, but of trustworthiness." People make mistakes, this is part of being a human. Trustworthiness has nothing to do with the format of their application rather the content of it. The IRB should be more concerned about the substance of the application and determine if the study protocol is ethical or not rather than nit picking punctuation.

Consequently, as time has passed, Anthropology has gone from one extreme (harming research subjects) to another (hardly any field work left). A middle ground needs to be found where Anthropologists can do their research for the benefits of the larger society without it being unethical and approved by the IRB. The IRB needs to be more lenient on the quantity of applications accepted, and they need to stick to their required job, which is deeming the project illegal, unrealistic, and unethical. Anthropologists are a key part to understanding human kind as a whole. There is always something new that we can learn from them, so we need to loosen the leash.


Tape is Flexible
by Carolyn Farley

In 2001, the United States government instated a new act to aid disadvantaged students by establishing national testing standards, called No Child Left Behind. Since the program began, these national standards have dramatically changed the classroom, and not in a good way. Rather than treating each school, each class, and each student like an individual, the program instead forced teachers to change their lesson plans so that they would teach students how to pass a test, just get them up to the national average. What the act did not account for was that every school has a completely different set of problems, solutions, and levels of students; in its attempt to unify the school system, it failed to properly address each specific case from classroom to classroom and in effect failed to solve the decline in education. Likewise, government restrictions on Anthropology have set regulations to meet a wide group of researchers without addressing them as individuals.

When going into the field to study a test subject, and anthropologist must first make it through an approval system that allows them freedom of a grant, or to approve research, ect; a system put into place to avoid horrific human experimentation in the name of research. Regulatory institutions for anthropological research such as the US institutional review boards (IRBs) try to approach and regulate a broad spectrum of research with a narrow set of rules. The red tape attached to these regulations have begun to hinder rather than serve researchers and their subjects, and discourages research. When a review board decides on whether or not to trust a researcher based on whether or not they spelled everything in the application correctly is undermining the system; how can a review board trust someone from what they see on a sheet of paper? With the rise in telecommunications now including crystal clear web chats that can cross oceans, there is no excuse for impersonal application processes.

Communication is the single most important factor; we do not want researchers who intentionally malnourish a populace just to see what happens, but we also do not want to hinder research that is actually growing in importance. For instance, one review board rejected an anthropologist who was doing research on sexuality amongst young people. Their reasoning was that asking anyone under eighteen about their sexuality was wrong because, as minors, they counted as a vulnerable population and should be handled delicately. The researcher had to give up because there was no way to approach these young adults about the subject of gender issues without crossing some red line the IRBs did not agree with.

Regulating cultural research is a difficult thing to regulate because a lot of the regulations are based on morals; they rejected the proposal to work with youth on moral grounds. This creates an imperfect system, for as time moves on cultural context changes, addressing someone about their gender is a much more open and discussed matter for young adults in 2010 than it was even in the 1990s. the values of what is okay and what is not okay to talk about has changed, but if the people on the board have not changed much in five or ten years then they will be holding to old moral values that our society as a whole has moved on from. Therefore, if morals are fluid, the red tape that follows them should also be fluid; not only that, but the members on the IRBs should vary in age, race, and gender in order to give a verdict that is as fair as possible and eliminates the restrictions of an individual to accept new research.

In a hospital, the most important oath a doctor can take is a simple one; do no harm. The primary rule that should apply to regulating any kind of cultural study is this; do no harm. If we go back to the previous problem about asking a youth about their gender struggles there are some questions that must be asked; does this harm them? Was it once a taboo that inevitably, yes, did harm them to admit, has the taboo changed now as gender diversity and LGBTQ rights becomes an icon in main media? The board will have to be fluid about what goes and what does not go, the Socratic Method will have to be applied to every individual case as it stands; does this cause harm? What kind of harm does it cause? If the questions being asked have to change in some way, in what way can it be changed to do the least amount of damage to the subject and to the research itself? Does this proposal have to be thrown away?

Review boards and anthropologists need to communicate effectively and constantly to establish the ethical and moral rights of their research, they must also work on a personal level together. Legal forms will only do so much to get the point across from one person to another. Standards for each case should be fluid, applied differently to each, as each individual case differs from the last and deserves to be looked at from an independent angle. The IRBs boards themselves need to work as much for the researcher as the research subjects; they need to have a diverse board of people in order to come to the fairest conclusion possible. The primary goal of the review should not be lost; do no harm. As long as that standard is upheld, the rest can be addressed on a case-by-case basis.


Judge Not, That Ye Be Not Judged.
Change Not, That Ye Be Not Changed
by Erica Hicks

On a subject about culture, it's difficult to say what is or isn't moral, or even abusive. In the United States, there are clear boundaries between right and wrong. When we sympathize, it must be right. When we feel guilt, it must be wrong.

How should one react if they've done irreparable damage to another person? This is the trick. Some people might say that they would feel horrible; others would say "Well, what did that other person do to me?" This kind of divided thinking brings an issue to the question about abuse prevention. What, exactly, is abuse?

The standard definition of 'Abuse' is "cruel and violent treatment of a person or animal," so that is the definition to be used throughout this paper. As such, there is a strong personal belief that any and all mandatory regulations should be enforced to prevent abuse, but research should not be the judge of what is or isn't good for another culture. Anthropologists are researchers, social scientists studying people and cultures. As people who are researching, they ought to feel no right to say that they know what would or wouldn't be good for a culture. Our own indecision in elections is proof enough that the moral choice is not always black and white, so until we reach a global consensus, the best thing to do would be to observe without interference.

The Guatemala Syphilis Experiment is a perfect bio-medical example of the anthropological dilemma. Scientists, even social scientists, strive for knowledge and understanding. Some of our most important medical knowledge has come from less-than-ethical history. This is one of the greatest arguments for non-consensual experimentation. While it's fantastic that we have all these advancements, people unwillingly died for the knowledge we now possess. Some radical scientists claim that it's a risk that we must take, but if they think it is such a noble cause, it is my feeling that they should be the first to volunteer to be experimented on.

In 1974 the National Research Act was signed in, which demanded beneficence as one of the three basic ethical principles for research, but beneficence is a term which remains largely debated. In a large part, it involves a grotesque sum of manifest destiny tied in with global imperialism. Why is it that the western world decides what is or isn't beneficial for a culture? People are told to put on clothes, act civilized, and follow the rules. But who is this person making these rules? Who decided that the westerners were civilized but the islanders were barbarians? Certainly not Boas.

The new law calls for regulations such as "maintain confidentiality, make an equitable selection, obtain written consent, and protect the subjects." These regulations all protect the civilizations being bullied by the "advanced" cultures and losing their power. The Huron-Wendat bones should be returned to their rightful owners, and perhaps they can be studied with the permission of the rightful owners of the bones. Their rituals may seem far-fetched, but so does Christianity from many points of view. Confidentiality should always be maintained, and permission should always be obtained before any experiments are performed. If there is an issue with any of that, it is the experiment that is unethical.

The new law does not call for any action to be taken to alter the subject, only to prevent adverse effects of the study. A researcher is just that--a researcher, not a divine engineer. Researchers should be only allowed to conduct research with as little impact on the subject as possible, and regulations to prevent outside change on the subject should always be enforced. Research should not reach a goal, just research. Goal-setting is a time for analysis, not collection of data, therefore the Institutional Review Boards and the Review Ethics Boards should enforce rules preventing anyone to change the culture in a way it would not have altered naturally.


It's Not Always Black and White
by Veronica Charles

Human life is the most sacred gift we have on this planet. To risk it, is to risk the greatest gift of all. Cultures on a secular level agree that there is nothing that can be obtained that can be of higher importance than our lives. However, this idea is in constant dispute amongst our continent's brightest doctors and scientists every time they test on human subjects. These great minds believe that our lives can be compromised at a price, which constitutes a grueling question never before faced: what benefit could we possibly obtain that would be worth losing the lives of our loved ones and ourselves? This question is answered differently by particular cultures throughout North America. With so many different beliefs, how do we place a generic price on a living soul? We don't. There are some questions that we cannot answer absolutely.

There is no doubt that doctors and scientists have developed a variety of different cures, anecdotes, answers, and positive results from testing theories on living subjects. Yet even with great results, we have to look at how these results were obtained. Are the results really "positive" if human morals were compromised in the process? Is it okay to wound an uninformed patient to possibly save another? In 2010, the Guatemalan Syphilis Experiment brought forth some information that greatly influenced the public's opinions of whether or not human testing can be justified. Cultures internationally were shocked when they learned that in the 1940's American doctors gave Guatemalan women syphilis against their will and paid them to spread the disease amongst criminals. President Obama personally apologized for the despicable act and pronounced the event as "a crime against humanity". There seems to be a universal agreement that this was ethically wrong and morally corrupt.

Another event regarding human testing that seems to be in agreement amongst the population is the inhumane nutritional tests performed on unwitting aboriginal children. Malnourished children were given controversial diets and supplements to test different theories on various diet plans. People around the world are not only troubled with this study but outraged after discovering that even after torturing these poor children, the callous medical professionals stated that the studies "were not very helpful". It seems to be much easier to make rules regarding what is not ethically acceptable versus what is.

Although there are some seemingly easy cases to decipher the righteousness within, some are a bit more complicated. For example, the Huron-Wendat Nation was outraged after Louisiana researchers gathered bones to examine from an old graveyard. While there were many beneficial reasons to digging up the bones, in the Huron-Wendat culture, researchers disturbed the very souls of their relatives. While the justification of this procedure is controversial, we do know that it has placed one culture in outrage. In accordance to the holistic perspective, anthropologists have to remember that another culture cannot be given the right to reign over another. We must value each and every culture's values and beliefs.

I believe that there a few regulations regarding human testing that can be agreed upon by the population as a whole. Test subjects must be informed of what they are participating in and what the possible risks and benefits of the tests are. When the test subjects are deceased, the living relatives must give permission after being fully informed; asking the closest culture we can find will not give justice to the rights of the deceased. However, the details regarding these tests are so controversial that we cannot create an exact set of rules to follow. We must remember to "do no harm" and instead "do good" in order to create a positive environment for research. By taking every culture's opinions into consideration, we can ensure to use important findings for the betterment of humanity.


The Role of Institutional Review Boards on Research
by Wen Wei

Research is an important part of advancement in the human race. It explores the unknown and reveals unanswered questions that we as humans, are doomed to have. As human beings we are gifted/cursed with the intelligence which enables us to think, want, question and to be curious. As we all know the quote "curiosity kills the cat", it gets us in trouble with the parties involved with research. When conflicts and dilemmas arise from what was done in the sake of research, rules would be created to keep order and peace. I stand by the rules that are established in the modern day Institutional Review Boards (IRB) because of what had happened in the past.

In The syphilis experiments in Guatemala, doctors infected soldiers, prostitutes, prisoners and mental patients with syphilis and other STDs, without informing the subjects of what was being done to them. The test subjects are people, and they have human rights just like the rest of the human beings all around the world. The researchers had no right to say or do anything that could put their lives in danger. The test resulted in eighty three deaths and all the compensation that was provided was a formal apology. This is not the only time researchers gone too far to get answers that they desire. The Huron-Wendat Nation was wrong, but in different ways than the people in Guatemala. The Huron-Wendats had their ancestor's remains taken from them by the Louisiana State University. The Huron-Wendat demanded that they return the stolen remains of about 200 people. The researchers needed to ask the right person to get the approval for the removal of the ancestral bones for research. The researchers had no right to be there, it is similar to grave robbing in how the Louisiana State University went about the bones. These are the reasons why the Institutional Review Boards were established, to keep the bad out and the good in to continue doing great work driving forward the human race.

Many researchers despise the Institutional Review Boards based on their rules and regulations that are established and followed. According to the websites, The Institutional Review Board is there to protect research subjects from the unethical researchers. The Institutional Review Boards filters out the bad researchers by applying the rules and regulations. A bad researcher would not go through all the troubles of applying, presenting their plan on research and reapplying if they get turned down because of a small reason, this process is time consuming. Like the law, when a person that breaks a serious norm in society, laws are then made to fix the problem. Another example of misconduct during a research is the case on the hungry aboriginal children. The case consist of testing the nutritional factors of the aboriginal children. The researchers violated the children's right as human beings when the research was going on. This is the reason why The Institutional Review Boards are established. The Institutional Review Boards are established to minimize risks to subjects, weigh and balance the benefit and risks of any particular research experiment. The Institutional Review Boards should require the following criteria: respect of any and all persons, will not do any harm to test the subjects and must follow any and all laws in the country that they are in. Lastly the golden rule should be to treat other like you would like to be treated. I believe those should be the general rules that the researchers should follow.


Avoiding The Past
by Itohan Osayaren

Ranging from research done on the power and effects of the atomic bomb on humans by plutonium injection given to patients during the Manhattan Atomic Bomb Project, to Project MKULTRA, an experiment aiming to control and influence the human mind as well as the horrific and well known studies done by German Nazi regime on prisoners during the Holocaust, the need for guidelines and universal rules in both Canada and the U.S. should be written in order for the avoidance of unethical and abuse of research subjects in the near future.

According to Google, a rule is defined as " set of explicit or understood regulations or principles governing conduct within a particular activity or sphere." Rules are created in society in order for the avoidance of certain ethical, moral, abuse and socially unacceptable issues that may occur if violated. With rules, we are able to still engage ourselves as human beings who can be interested in the wonders of the world presented before us without disregarding the social norms of our society today.

With this, the Insitutional Review Boards in both the U.S. and Canada should regulate rules that limit the extent of research on certain issues in society today.Research involving human beings and how they react to certain drugs, food, chemical concoctions, etc, must be approved by the individual who will be doing the experiment in a formal and documented manner. Research that wants to be done on property through things such as excavation or any other manner that involves land that may have some historical meaning must have a formal consent from either the 1st nations people if concerning a tribe or national group or through the closest ancestor if the first could not be reached.

The institutional review boards idea of being strict on the experimenter rather then the experiment itself is a reasonable reason why they are so catious of approving ceratin things. This actually makes me feel more secure that they are evaluating experiments that researches propose this closely rather then them to be approving experiments without as much interest. In hopes of not violating any ethical, moral, or social values, the need for extensive questioning and possibly the denial of certain experiments proposed by researchers are essential if they may violate the laws placed within society.

Researchers should be given as much freedom as they need in conducting certain experiments while also being able to abide by all the rules set before them. Researchers should have the right to research things that they are interested in while keeping in mind the ethical laws set before them regarding the respect and a complete sense of understanding of just how they will be conducting these experiments. Even though they do have a great deal of freedom when doing these experiments, laws will indefinetly govern their action in a way where their freedoms are knowingly restricted.

Research should always be done with the idea of achieving an answer to a situation or problem that can benefit society as a whole. The respectful and responsible way to research certain things should always be taken account with the review boards laws always present during there research. Researchers should always work to benefit society but with ethical and moral reasons considered throughout. Hopefully, with the placement of these rules, events concerning abuse during research will become a thing of the past.


Lost Findings In Anthropology
by Joshua Heatwole

In the world of cultural anthropology the debate is continuously arose as to what amount of freedom should be allowed to researchers in conducting their research. The regulations that follow research in my opinion should be that yes, when touching a physical historical object it should be okay to examine the objects at an up close level, as long as there is nothing done to destroy such history without being filed for approval from a proper council. Rules should be set though as to what can be done to human and animal test subjects when it comes to research.

In the example of the Guatemala Syphilis Experiment, regulations should have been set as too what can be allowed to be done to the subjects and how many subjects are allowed. Spreading a viral sexually transmitted disease (STD) without the knowledge of the subjects shouldn't be allowed within a third world country or any country at that that. Whether in a poor country or a wealthy one diseases will get spread nationally. Without proper care to historical items,

Regulations should be made for experiments such as that due to the fact that even though valuable knowledge is gained to race for a cure, it is still affecting people's lives in a completely negative way without anything positive gained for the individual except for the fact they have to live with an STD the rest of their life. Not only was it unethical to conduct this experiment in a foreign country, to help save our own population more, but they also gave the subjects the virus without knowledge or consent. Doing acts like this should be against the law and brought up to a court of anthropologist for approval for all experiments like this. The experiment being conducted on prostitutes and inmates doesn't make it anymore right especially considering that could throw off the test results significantly focusing on people like prostitutes who already have STD's and live in that type of lower lifestyle.

That's why I feel as if a court should be made by the government to set regulations for experiments conducted in American but also regulations for experiments conducted by America in third world countries. Without proper care to historical items, valuable history of not only our country, but world, could be lost due to the carelessness of some anthropologist trying to get his name out there. For experiments examining historical items, I think close observation/touching/analysis should be allowed but once it comes to the decomposition of the object, rules should be set and even have certain items need to be approved before chemical testing can be done.


A Happy Medium
by Kalynn DeBates

The Institutional Review Board (IRB) is a "service-driven organization dedicated to excellence in human research participant protection and committed to providing industry leading efficient customer-oriented services." ( As this as their motto, IRB should have full regulation over researchers to enforce citizens well-being and respect to one's culture and traditions. Even though researchers should be over sighted, the people that set the regulations should come from all groups involved in the study. This applies to groups including psychologists, anthropologists, the Institutional Review Board, and the citizens being studied.

Citizen well-being is a huge ethic that needs to be followed. Case 5 is an example of how citizens are not being treated with the respect they deserve. From depleting the malnourished children's vitamin intake to extracting their dental care, this was a huge health issue that the researchers had made worse than it already was. "The experiments, repugnant today, would probably have been considered ethically dubious even at the time, said Mosby. "I think they really did think they were helping people. Whether they thought they were helping the people that were actually involved in the studies, that's a different question." Not very many conclusions have come out of this research to make the depleting of children's heath, worthy of its actions. This is one reason why the IRB should be involved in the research, to restrict unworthy and unethical research to be done.

As the citizens are being respected, so should their culture. The Louisiana State University had excavated bones that had originally been buried by the Huron-Wendat Nation. This was a disgrace to the nation because, "The Huron-Wendat believe buried bones are sacred because a person's soul rests with the remains, while a second soul soars skyward." As well the fact that the bones were bothered and the nation was not informed, the LSU professors had asked the wrong nation for approval of the excavation. "For remains deemed very old and aboriginal, there are two choices under the Ontario Cemeteries Act: One is to contact the closest First Nations group, which in this case was the Alderville First Nation [the group that was asked permission]. The second option is to consult with the most likely people descended from the dead." The detail that the IRB board requires for research is essential so events like this don't take place.

To make research both beneficial to the examiners and the citizens involved, boundaries need to be set but not just by the IRB but by all societies implicated. All bands, tribes, nations, etc. are different so they need to be treated in the manner that they deserve. Some groups are more sensitive than others, or some are freer when it comes to their desire of participation. This is why ground rules should be set in the beginning, but should be a compromise that all people are satisfied with so those guidelines are met by all.

In all, this is a respectable compromise that both protects the citizens and their ways of living as well as allowing researchers to get the information they desire and doing it ethically. The IRB can be used as a medium to ensure peace and respect within the studies.


The International Review Boards:
Protecting the Subjects or Protecting Themselves?
by Emma Brooks

In the early days of anthropological studies it was not uncommon for the ill-planned experiments of over-enthusiastic researchers to run amok. Even if these studies did not end in utter disaster, they often produced extremely inconclusive results at the expense of the population that was being studied. A prime example of this is the series of syphilis experiments that took place in Guatemala shortly after the end of World War II. In these experiments, healthy subjects were being infected with a deadly malady without their consent or even their knowledge of what was happening. Treatment was only completed in a small percentage of these unwitting subjects, and even in these few, the treatment showed insubstantial results.

It is against situations such as the Guatemala syphilis experiments that institutions such as the International Review Board and Research Ethics Board, or IRB and REB respectively, are trying to protect. The regulations of the REB state that "respect for human dignity requires that research involving humans be conducted in a manner that is sensitive to the inherent worth of all human beings and the respect and consideration that they are due." The IRB expresses similar views and stresses the importance of safety of experimental subjects and informed consent.

On the surface the IRB and REB appear to be wholesome organizations that simply want to protect the rights subjects involved in studies. However, lately the IRB has taken their mission to ridiculous extremes in some areas while being arbitrary in others. This has begun to have quite a detrimental effect on field work and participant-observation studies as well as simple polls and anonymous interviews. Under the ruse of attempting to protect interviewees, The IRB insisted that everyone being interviewed about an issue for a study (in this instance it was regarding cosmetic surgery) sign a permission slip, regardless of the fact that all of the responses were to be anonymous and real names of the subjects were never to be used.

Yet in another instance where IRB interference would have been helpful and welcomed, the Board was nowhere to be found. In this situation, human remains were wrongfully taken from a Huron-Wendat burial site to be studied at Louisiana State University. The university had gone through what the appropriate steps were to obtain permission to remove the remains, however, the university had simply taken the easiest route to permission (by requesting it from the tribe geographically closest to the burial site) rather than taking the time to determine who might actually be the descendants of these deceased people and obtain the permission from them. This would have been an excellent opportunity for the IRB to step in and enforce the idea of respect for all persons and have the remains returned, since that was what the remaining Huron-Wendat people were requesting, yet no action was taken by the IRB.

It is impossible for effective research to take place if the organizations monitoring the research are not consistent in what the expect and require to ensure that the rights of the subjects are protected. Field research and interviews cannot be placed into the same category of rules as experimentation. It is perfectly reasonable for the IRB and REB to have some amount of control over studies that take place. This control is what will prevent inhumane actions from occurring over the course of experiments. However, these Boards should most definitely have two separate set of rules and regulations. One set should be specific to actual experimentation, and the other set should pertain to field research and interviews. A signed permission slip would be very appropriate in the case of an experiment, and yet be detrimental in an anonymous survey.

The IRB and the REB were put in place to respect the rights of individuals being studied. These organizations do and should have the authority to put rules in place to fulfill their purpose, but no more than that. Let the researchers conduct their own studies under the watchful eye of the IRB, with the IRB being present simply to ensure safety and equal rights for everyone involved.


by Steffini Amezquita

Imagine a world with out science. A world in the dark about mental illnesses, diseases, cures for diseases, and other useful information that research has taught us. I'd compare a world like that to a stone age, and it's not one I want to live in. I believe research is a big part of our world growing and evolving, and without it, science would never be able to come up with all the advances that it has.

The only regulations I believe the IRB and REB should be place on research is signed consent forms, and the ability to back out at anytime during the study. People need to know what they are getting themselves into before they decide to participate, and if the research turns into something they don't like they should have the right to walk away if they get uncomfortable. I don't believe regulations will stop things like the Guatemala Syphilis Experiment because if John Cutler had no respect for the law, why would he respect some silly regulations that are in place for the same reason?

I believe researchers should have the freedom to be able to do whatever research they want to do, and can find the people to use to do it (as long as they have written consent). All human beings are allowed to walk around, and be trusted not to break the law. Therefore, I believe that researchers should have the same level of trust. Also, participants who are informed know what they are and are not comfortable with. If a person is okay with the research they choose to be a part of, then they should be allowed to be a part of it. If a researcher breaks a law I do believe the justice system will hold them accountable. Just like anybody else. After all, that is the reason laws are there.

In conclusion, I understand that the IRB and the REB have people's best interests in mind, but I don't believe they should be able to pick and choose who gets to do research on things they get to deem important. I also think it's silly that they can discredit someone's ability to do research due to a simple spelling error. Lastly, I feel like the IRB is not an effective regulator because they refer to transgendered people as a "vulnerable population". This goes against all attempts these types of people have made to be equal in society, and is a pretty judgmental statement. I'm sure the people of IRB wouldn't like to be clumped together as one type of people and told what they can and cannot do, or participate in. So I do not believe they should have the right to do that to other


Turning the Lens Inward
by Tori Sandoval

The regulations placed on researchers by Institutional Review Boards are put in place to prevent mistreatment and ensure only competent, morally sound people are conducting research projects. However, IRBs themselves may need to consider turning the lens inward and evaluate the criteria they use to judge research projects. Formalities that work for say, medical research, may hinder anthropological research, for example. IRBs are necessary but may need to reconsider what regulations work best.

Human rights have been violated in the past due to lax or non-existent regulations on researchers. Recall the syphilis experiments in Guatemala, where doctors purposely infected subjects with syphilis, without patient consent. Had IRBs existed at the time the Guatemala experiments took place it is likely the injustices done to the Guatemala people never would have occurred. Another example of abuse by researchers are the nutritional experiments conducted by Canadian government bureaucrats on malnourished aboriginal children. Children were purposely and unwittingly test subjects on the effects of different diet. Many children were denied important vitamins to see the effects of vitamin deficits. Again, had IRBs existed at the time the research project would have never been allowed to continue.

Institutional Review Boards have in place certain requirements that need to be met in order for a research project to be approved. Examples of these requirements include gaining consent and ensuring subjects are well informed of what they are taking part it and that risk to subjects is minimized. Requirements such as these are fair and reasonable. They ensure that no one is being taken advantage of. However, blanket regulations that cover all fields of research from medical to anthological are not effective. IRBs need to take into great account what type of research is taking place and what protocols will be most effective. Patient signatures in medical research may be appropriate, but requiring signatures for what should be an anonymous research project is unreasonable and destroys that anonymity. People will be less eager to participate in research projects if they feel their identity is not being kept anonymous. IRBs must realize there is a fine line between preventing violations against human rights and preventing valuable fieldwork from being completed because of overly bureaucratic rules.

Institutional Review Boards are necessary to guarantee that human rights are not being violated. This is evident considering the blatant violations against human rights that have occurred before IRBs existed; recall the Guatemalan syphilis and Canadian nutritional experiments. However, IRBs need to reconsider the criteria they use with research projects from different fields. Regulations that benefit researchers in one field may hinder those in another. Only then will researchers be able to obtain the data they need to create positive changes in society.


To Regulate, Or Not To Regulate
by Emily Gould

While many anthropologists in the field are very ethical in conducting their studies, there are those who break away from the common rules of research and exploit the lesser situations of the people they study. They fully take advantage of unwitting subjects while never sharing results they received through studies; just to leave societies in the same conditions they found them in. It is because of these researchers that institutional review boards were created, to prevent acts of injustice in the field from being carried out. Although these are extremely helpful in stopping ruthless researchers, they pose a problem for many ethical anthropologists today.

On the one hand, review boards greatly limit the number of cases in which researchers abuse the subjects they study. A horrifying example of such abuse would be the "Guatemala Syphilis Experiment." The US conducted study infected numerous people with syphilis and other sexually transmitted diseases unknowingly. Some people received antibiotics while many did not, resulting in the deaths of 83 people. Researches took advantage of uneducated people in different difficult life positions and exploited their health just find results of a disgusting experiment. The results of this experiment were never published. IRB's are there to protect the lives of people subject to study and experiments. They are necessary to keep anthropologists and other researchers in check, to remind them that all humans deserve to be treated as dignified people. There was a similar situation in the case five study where researchers took advantage of the situation of starving Aboriginal children. They conducted a study giving some children nutrients and vitamins, while others were left without it. Like before, no results were ever released to the larger anthropological community or the public. The children were left to remain in starvation with no help from outside governing forces once more.

These cases are haunting examples of subject abuse by researchers and justify the creation of institutional review boards for fields of research both in the United States and Canada. But on the other hand, while they are incredibly important and effective, they are also incredibly restricting. Many review boards are implementing such severe measures just to make sure that researchers are "trustworthy," such as the example in case four "Behind Closed Doors." It is understandable that a board would want to make sure that the people they send out into the field are ethical, and there does need to be a set of regulations to follow, but they should not be so restrictive that a researcher is not able to conduct a study because of a few spelling errors or numerous paperwork that needs to be filled out by test subjects. The regulations merely need to be a set of rules that are followed rigorously by all field workers. Those may include complete respect given to all people and societies studied, well-documented informed consent, close monitoring of fieldwork conducted, and confidentiality when required or requested.

The ultimate goal of researches is to study different cultures and answer questions about them and their people, while also striving to create positive benefits to those cultures through the studies they have conducted. Institutional review boards help achieve these goals by limiting unethical acts among researchers in the field. Unethical cases in the past have proved that there needs to be a board in order to maintain morally proper relationships between human beings when studies are conducted. Though these cases justify the existence of such boards, many of the boards have become too harsh when interpreting rules of conduct among researchers. The slightest mistake in the application process could eliminate the chances of researchers ever conducting their studies in the field. Because of this, there needs to be slightly less regulation and more trust on the side of institutional review boards.


Limits Of The International Review Board
by Allison Mering

How would you feel if an Anthropologist was interviewing you, and they treated you as though you had a mental illness? The IRB (International Review Board) considers certain people to be seen as mentally ill when they are not. The IRB was created to help protect the individuals being researched from unethical researchers. However, their protection is at an all time high. The people who the IRB classify as needing certain care when being interviewed are known as a "vulnerable population". A vulnerable population includes: prisoners, terminally ill people, children, people with mental illness, and pregnant women. The IRB is now considering groups of people to be seen as a vulnerable population when they are not.

In the case study "The IRB And The Future Of Fieldwork", Laurie Essig got into trouble with the IRB because she wasn't treating a transgender as a vulnerable population. I think treating a transgender as though they have something wrong with them, or that they are mentally ill, is completely unethical. "These people have issues with their gender," said an IRB member. However, these people have overcome the hardship of coming out as transgender, and don't need to be treated as though something is wrong with them. In the same case study, the IRB is forcing Anthropologists to get a signed consent for an anonymous interview with cosmetic surgery patients. Having them sign their name will make these patients feel like it is not anonymous at all.

In another case study "Behind Closed Doors", the IRB is shown turning down applicants for something as simple as a spelling error. If the IRB continues to be this strict, there will be no new information gathered from researchers.

Interviewing subjects has been around for decades, and has been one of the most helpful tools in gathering information about a group or population. Although the IRB is trying to protect the subjects being interviewed, the harsh rules restricting Anthropologists interview techniques are also restricting helpful information from being gathered. I see where the IRB is coming from. However, I think they need to loosen their grip on Anthropologists who are only trying to do their job and collect useful information to share with the world.


Stricter Set of Rules
by Jeff Toy

Institutional Review Boards and Review Ethics Boards are very necessary for analyzing research done on human subjects. Experiments on humans are very difficult to do ethically because the research focuses on studying the habits of humans and identifying their personal inhibitions. I feel it is necessary for IRBs and REBs to enforce a set of common rules involving any and all research on humans because it is not morally or ethically civil to experiment on humans without a set of guidelines.

The Guatemala Syphilis Experiment that was conducted on "infected soldiers, prostitutes, prisoners, and mental patients" reinforces why a set of common rules is necessary for research on humans (Case One). The patients were experimented on without informed consent which is deemed unethical research. Also, details of what occurred to the subjects were not released to Guatemalan officials, and it was not very fair on the researcher's part to withhold such information. Since there were no rules for experimenting on human subjects during this experiment, the ramifications of the researcher's decisions resulted in "at least 83 deaths" (IBID). I find this very disturbing because the research states that a "total of about 1500 study subjects were involved""which is still about a strong 5% of the sample population" (IBID). The fact that there were that many people researched and that many deaths states that the experiments were not controlled or watched over very well.

Another experiment done on hungry aboriginal children and adults emphasizes why a set of rules for research done on humans is necessary. Research done by Canadian government bureaucrats in 1942 on subjects of "remote aboriginal reserve communities" portrayed that the researchers saw an opportunity to research a group of people without thinking about what is ethical and what is not (Case Five). The researchers wanted to find out what are human requirements for vitamins. They allowed only a certain portion of hungry people to receive vitamins, and the rest of an already hungry group of people to not receive any vitamins. I feel that such thought out decisions dealing with starving people while giving other people in the same situation food as a means of experimentation very unethical and demoralizing.

Researchers should only be allowed freedom in their research if it does not cross the border between ethical and unethical. Some research techniques to one group of people might be unethical to them and very ethical to another; therefore, a common ground needs to be met before any research on humans is conducted. Any research that harms the economical, ethical or morality of humans is what I consider to be unethical research. Also, all researchers need proper consent and full information distribution with their subjects on exactly everything that they will be doing in the experiment.

I also believe that all research that is conducted on a population needs to have positive or neutral benefits to the subjects in order for it to be released or published. Regulations for what is considered ethical and unethical need to be made clear to both the researchers and subjects in order for there to not to be any negative ramifications to the subjects, researchers, or societies sponsoring the research. This will reduce the amount of unethical acts and deaths that may result from experiments. If Institutional Review Boards and Review Ethics Boards implement a set of common rules that all researchers must follow, the amount of cases that occurred with unethical experimentation will dramatically decreased and promote safer practices.