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HEC Forum. 2015 Mar;27(1):61-77. doi: 10.1007/s10730-014-9263-3.

Perceptions and experiences of community members serving on institutional review boards: a questionnaire based study.

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Bhaktivedanta Hospital, Sector 1, Srushti Complex, Mira Road, Thane, 401107, India.


The community representative plays a very important role in an institutional review board (IRB) but there is sparse data about their understanding of their role in an IRB. This study was conducted to assess perceptions of community members serving on IRBs of one region in India. A validated questionnaire (Cohen's kappa coefficient of 0.84) was administered to community members of IRBs in a prospective cross-sectional study. The questions related to demography, perceptions of their role in the IRB, experiences while serving on the IRBs, difficulties faced by them, and suggestions to improve their contributions. Of the 56 IRBs contacted, all 15 of the public institutions shared details of their community members, while only 26 of the 41 IRBs of private institutions responded. When questioned about why they joined the IRB, one third of the respondents said either that there was "no specific reason" for joining or that they accepted the invitation to serve on the insistence of other members of the IRBs or the head of their institution. All except one felt that community members were needed for optimal functioning. Six participants said that they did not review informed consent documents (ICD), and 10 were unaware that their presence was vital for quorum to be met. Twenty-eight said they participated actively in meetings and did not feel intimidated by the presence of clinicians. Twelve reported difficulties in understanding medical terminologies in ICDs. Although the majority of participants were aware about their role in an IRB, some did not review important documents such as ICDs. Restricted participation by private hospital IRBs was a striking observation in our study. There is a need to define eligibility criteria and develop targeted training modules for community members to ensure their effective contribution to effective oversight of clinical research.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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