In her June 26, 2021 communication to the University of Minnesota campus community, President Gabel stated, “We are committed to a serious dialogue about dismantling systemic racism, which includes doing more and doing better to support our community members who are Black, Indigenous, and people of color.” The Institutional Review Board has a unique and powerful platform to advance that conversation and, more significantly, to promote tangible actions that support building trust, facilitating access and ensuring the benefits of research advances are broadly accessible.
A serious dialogue is key to advancing these goals. Dialogue assumes that we are in direct communication with those who have experienced harm by the conduct of research or who have been denied the benefits that research affords. We cannot dismantle barriers that are invisible to or misunderstood by those who don’t experience them. To advance this dialogue, we propose the following:
- Ensure that all IRB staff and committee members understand how specific communities have been harmed by research and how that has contributed to a deficit of trust.
- Recognize and promote awareness of the inherent power differential between investigator and research participant. Promote communication and protocol design that reflects this awareness and employs strategies to mitigate.
- Build upon success by promoting the unique opportunities that community-based participatory research offers in design, participation, and conduct of research.
- Promote the understanding that the willingness to participate in research and the experience of research participants may be informed by historical trauma, systemic racism, and other unique cultural considerations.
- Develop and maintain relationships with community leaders willing to serve as expert consultants to help the IRB evaluate the appropriateness of research targeting community members who are Black, Indigenous, and other people of color.
- Promote recruitment strategies in all research that yield participation that better reflects the diversity of our community.
- Ensure that no group of people is exposed to the risk of research without a reasonable expectation of reaping the benefits of that research.
- Faithfully apply the criteria for IRB approval as it defines a framework for ethical decision making regarding the conduct of research.
- Prioritize diversity in hiring practices and in IRB membership recruitment.
- Encourage retention of BIPOC employees and members by committing to the work outlined above