A friend of mine e-mailed to tell me about a problem she is currently having with her IRB. She’s involved with a longitudinal survey of a disadvantaged population. They are going to be collecting a new round of data. Her university’s IRB is saying that an Adverse Event form needs to be filed for each person that has died between the previous round of data collection and the current round.
If you were doing a medical intervention study on a population, then Adverse Event forms are used to keep track of the possibility that maybe your intervention is killing people. To my knowledge, there has never been a recorded instance of somebody dying as a result of answering survey questions, although metaphorical dying of boredom is not infrequent. (Incidentally, once upon a time in the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study, I documented fairly carefully that, net of a large battery of controls that would have satisfied the causal-pushovers of a bygone era, people who refused to participate in the WLS were more likely to die than people who did not. A bonus question on one of my research methods exams was to offer three possible explanations.)
Has anyone else heard of survey researchers being asked to do this?