Of all of the issues brought up by the Lacour controversy, we have not devoted enough attention to one in my view. The
YaleColumbia* IRB made itself part of this problem.
In his initial comments to Retraction Watch, Lacour’s coauthor and Columbia political science professor Donal Green wrote,
Given that I did not have IRB approval for the study from my home institution, I took care not to analyze any primary data – the datafiles that I analyzed were the same replication datasets that Michael LaCour posted to his website. Looking back, the failure to verify the original Qualtrics data was a serious mistake.
This points to a real cost imposed by intransigent IRBs that become significant hurdles for research to progress. As institutions evaluate their response to this affair, and we reevaluate our own approaches to collaboration, those efforts would not be complete without considering the fact that IRBs hinder good, ethical research.