Institutional review boards and scientific progress

Steve Olivier

Research output: Contribution to journalMeeting Abstract


Research into the limits of human performance has become a growth industry, and critical to investigators is a readily available supply of subjects. However, history attests that free scientific inquiry and social stability have often been at odds. Particularly when research (and the freedom to conduct it) impinges on the perceived rights of individuals or groups, a sense of alarm grows even in societies that have traditionally given free rein to such activities. As a result, there have been, and continue to be, numerous demands for the regulation of
research with injurious or invasive potential. Growing acceptance of ethical principles such as autonomy, as well as public reaction to past abuses, has led to die establishment of Institutional Review Boards (IRBs). This paper examines the
structure, function, and effectiveness of IRBS, and specifically focuses on the notion that the institutionalisation of these committees has created a growing bureaucracy that retards scientific progress by reducing creative nonconformity. The paper evaluates the argument that not only is ethical review endangering valuable research oil human beings, but that it is also endangering the very ethic that is needed to govern such research. Future strategies and possible solutions are explored, and the paper concludes that die imperfections of the concept should not lead to the ethical review process being discarded.
Original languageEnglish
Article number49
Pages (from-to)17-17
Number of pages1
JournalSouth African Journal of Sports Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 15 Dec 1997
Externally publishedYes


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