So I've just posted a draft paper on SSRN, "Regulating the Production of Knowledge: Research Risk-Benefit Analysis and the Heterogeneity Problem," the first of a pair of companion articles on, well, how we regulate knowledge production -- focusing on IRBs in particular and on the peculiar risk-benefit standard that pretty much every federal agency (and the governance frameworks of many other countries) requires them -- futilely, I argue -- to perform. As soon as I finish navigating the ExpressO/Scholastica maze, I'll be blogging about some of issues raised in this paper, its companion, and "Legal Experimentation: Legal & Ethical Challenges to Evidence-Based Law & Medicine," a workshop (and edited volume) I'm organizing this spring.
But for now, a few brief thoughts:
(1) I hate the title of the draft paper. It's hideous. I long for the concise elegance of Prison Vouchers or some of the others mentioned here. The companion paper is tentatively titled "Research Contracts." That's followed by the usual boring descriptive subtitle, of course, but I consider it a victory at least to have begun with the kind of title I aspire to. For the posted draft, though, I can't even manage to do that. "Hey, IRBs: You're Doing It Wrong (But It's Not Your Fault)" is a fair description, but seems a little glib for a law review article. So I'm all ears if anyone comes up with a less jargonistic, sleep-inducing title. (More importantly, and in all seriousness, I'm very open to feedback on the paper itself.)
(2) Toshiba is on my s*** list. Partly because I'm a die hard Mac person, but mostly because of Toshiba's latest ad campaign, embedded above, which stereotypically portrays research participants as the passive objects of mad scientists -- that is, as proverbial guinea pigs. Like other historically disempowered groups, career research participants have reclaimed that moniker. But Toshiba's customers don't know that, and its ad helps perpetuate the image of research participation as terribly dangerous and degrading and as something that only someone who is either irrational or desperate (and willing to be exploited) would agree to. In reality, research participants can and do initiate research, and in the increasingly popular Citizen Science and Quantified Self movements, the distinction between researcher and "subject" disappears altogether. It's also closer to the truth (ahem, Time Magazine) to say that a lack of experimentation has turned millions of us into human guinea pigs in the realms of health care and legal services, and as the subjects of any number of laws, regulations, and policies (see the "Legal Experimentation" prospectus, linked above). /Rant