Here’s an issue I’m about to run into full speed. For my dissertation, I’ve got to query some of the designers and inventors of various technological doohickies (the technical term) on how science fiction influenced their work and their devices’ development. Because this is a “human study” I’ve got to get Institutional Review Board (part of the Office of Human Research Protections) permission and oversight for the work.
Mind you, I’m specifically asking them to avoid IP concerns, etc. I’m not asking them about their life outside of this very pointed question. I’m certainly not doing any kind of medical work n them…so why the hell do I have to jump through some federal hoops to do my work? The American Historical Association has the same concerns, as expressed in a letter from Jim Grossman, the Executive Director at the AHA, to the OHRP:
Historians who use interview methods focus on eliciting information about particular experiences of the past, and their work suffers irreparable harm when forced into rubrics developed to treat human beings in a general (or “generalizable”) way. The standards and procedures of Institutional Review Boards are alien to oral history research, and over the past decade we have compiled ample documentation of the misapplication of such rules to research projects in the field.
Rules for medical privacy are at odds with, and wholly unrelated to, the work of historians…so why are we being hamstrung by them?