Experiences of Health Professions Educators Utilizing Multiple Institutional Review Boards for Collaborative Research

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Article, Peer-reviewed

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Introduction: This study describes the experiences and perspectives of health professions educators around institutional review board (IRB) review of multi-institutional education research. Method: This survey study gathered quantitative and qualitative data from members of three of the four geographic regions of the AAMC Group on Educational Affairs (GEA) as well as a snowball sample from the fourth region, where access to the listserv was not possible. Quantitative data is described and qualitative comments were coded and themed. Results: Ninety-six percent of the 151 respondents considered multi-institutional incredibly or somewhat valuable to their educational research goals. Sixty-two percent had submitted at least one project to multiple institutions for review. Of 57 respondents, 21 identified disagreements in the type of IRB review required (exempt, expedited, or full-board review). Disagreements between IRBs are also reported, including changes in wording or informed consent procedures. Of the 36 participants who noted disagreement between IRBs for any changes, only three participants believed that the process significantly improved the research subject protections. Discussion: Most health professions education researchers across the USA and Canada appreciated the value and role of IRB review and expressed frustration in the face of review that seemingly did not result in meaningful improvements. Final changes to the federal Common Rule call for a single-IRB review in multi-institutional research, particularly for low-risk studies. This change on the horizon could not only mitigate current concerns but also bolster the proliferation of multi-institutional research studies in health professions education.