One challenge is engaging in external ethics oversight and review. As non-academic researchers, we typically do not have access to Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) associated with academic institutions unless we direct collaborate with a university-associated researcher. The only option is to turn to private, for-profit organizations that run IRBs. There is debate in the literature regarding the ethics of engaging with a for-profit organization for human ethics oversight, and the financial resources required to do so work against our efforts to engage in external human ethics processes and make contributions to moving the field forward. Partnering with academic institutions or large health organizations that have IRBs presents its own challenges, such as the question of who ultimately holds responsibility for the ethics and content of the research.
Panelists will discuss experiences with external oversight and review for internally driven research projects within various settings (e.g. development of a screening instrument for young people experiencing commercial sexual exploitation; seeking stakeholder input).
A second challenge is data sharing. Non-academic organizations may lack protocols and secure databases for sharing confidential data. Yet client-level data must sometimes be exchanged, such as between the referring child welfare agency and the non-profit agency that delivers the intervention and collects data about processes and outcomes. Panelists will offer examples of how to set up data sharing agreements and memoranda of understanding that facilitate the regular exchange of data necessary to conduct program evaluation and to support continuous quality improvement efforts. Our goal is to raise and begin to resolve the ethical and practical issues involved in conducting research with child welfare-involved youth and families and other vulnerable populations outside of the academy, and to collectively think about solutions.