Tag Archive for Laura Stark

5 Questions With . . . Laura Stark on Human-Subject Regulations

Assistant Professor Laura Stark hopes her new book can inform scientists, scholars, students and research participants of new research regulations created by the Office of Human Research Protections.

In this issue of The Wesleyan Connection, we ask 5 Questions of Laura Stark, assistant professor of sociology, assistant professor of science in society, assistant professor of environmental studies. Stark recently published a new book, Behind Closed Doors: IRBs and the Making of Ethical Research.

Q: Professor Stark, what inspired you to study institutional review boards (IRBs), which regulate research on human subjects?

A: I first became interested in this project in 2002 because of a great coincidence of scholarship. At the time, I was reading historical works that explained why the Nuremberg Code after World War II had so little effect on medical research in the U.S. I was also going through IRB training to conduct interviews as part of a research study, and found that the IRB training manuals attribute the modern origins of American research ethics to the Nuremberg Code. The two contradictory accounts intrigued me. I am generally interested in how new knowledge is produced in science and medicine, and I also think it’s important to use research methods appropriate to the question at hand (which is why I use both ethnographic and historical methods in the book). As a result, I started to explore how the ethics evaluation process developed historically and how it works today, and investigate the conflicting accounts of the importance of the Nuremberg Code.

I was excited at the prospect of exploring uncharted territory by observing IRB meetings and reconsidering the history of IRBs using new historical materials from the National Institutes of Health.

Q: What was most striking about the IRBs you observed?

A: As an ethnographer, I was struck by how similar these different IRB “field sites” felt to me. Each was a day’s drive from my home, each was composed of quite different individuals, and each used a lot of discretion in evaluating researchers’ proposal. Yet their methods for reaching decisions were remarkably similar. The three boards didn’t communicate with each other and they certainly weren’t trying to model on each other, and yet they use similar decision-making techniques.

As I argue in the book, these similarities are a function of the common configuration of IRBs all around the country. Since 1966, The U.S. surgeon general has required all universities, hospitals and other organizations that receive federal funding for research on people to get prior approval from a human-subjects

Stark’s New Book Reviewed in January Issue of Science

New book by Laura Stark.

A review of Laura Stark‘s new book, Behind Closed Doors: IRBs and the Making of Ethical Research, appears in the January 2012 issue of Science, Vol. 335, no. 6065 p. 170. Stark is an assistant professor of science in society, assistant professor of sociology, assistant professor of environmental studies.

The review states: “How did we get here? Seeking to answer that question for institutional review boards (IRBs), Laura Stark’s Behind Closed Doors challenges the historical mythology of bioethics.

… The most important contribution of this interesting, slim book is Stark’s demonstration that the conventional version of the origin of IRBs is a very partial story. The IRB regulations were developed and promulgated by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH).

… There is, of course, considerable irony in this history. What started out as a means of protecting research from intrusive regulation (and particularly the requirement that subjects sign detailed consent forms) has evolved into precisely what the group consideration process was meant to prevent: an intensive regulatory process that researchers resent as an intrusion on their autonomy.

Laura Stark

… Along with the historical account, Stark offers several chapters based on her ethnographic observation of two IRBs at different universities. Some of this interesting material contributes substantially to our understanding of how IRBs make decisions: She describes how committee members persuade one another of their expertise to critique a protocol. She provides a plausible account of why different IRBs generate conflicting reviews even though they have the same basic ethical commitments. And she explores the role of staff-written summaries of reviews in allowing IRBs to develop critical reviews of the ethics of their colleagues’ research.”

The full Science review is online here. (Note: You must be a Science subscriber or member of the Wesleyan network to read the review.)

Stark Discusses U.S. Medical Experiments on Humans

Appearing on a March 4 episode of  “The Takeaway,” which is broadcast by NPR and other affiliates, Laura Stark, assistant professor of science in society, assistant professor of sociology, assistant professor of environmental studies, discusses her research which uncovered medical experiments in the U.S. on uninformed or under-informed individuals.

The questionable consent practices ultimately led to today’s informed consent procedures and continue to influence consent development.

She also commented in a story posted by ABC News, discussing unethical medical experiments performed on prisoners, the disabled and others during the last century.

Stark Receives Early Career Award for Paper

Laura Stark

Laura Stark, assistant professor of sociology, received the Burnham Early Career Award from the History of Science Society for her paper, “The Science of Ethics: Deception, The Resilient Self, And the APA Code of Ethics, 1966-1973.” The paper was published in the fall 2010 issue of the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences.

The History of Science Society’s Forum calls the paper “original and compelling.”

“Stark’s paper offers a fascinating recreation of the process by which the American Psychological Association (APA) arrived at ethical guidelines for human research,” the citation reads. “Expertly taking advantage of little-known archival resources, [she] examines how a special committee was created, how it collected survey responses

Stark Awarded Grant from American Sociological Association

Laura Stark, assistant professor of sociology, assistant professor of science in society, assistant professor of environmental studies, received a grant worth $6,900 from the American Sociological Association for her study titled “How do research subjects affect biomedical studies?” The grant was awarded Oct. 21.

Stark Published in Behavioral Sciences Journal

Laura Stark, assistant professor of sociology, is the author of ““The Science of Ethics: Deception, The Resilient Self, And the APA Code of Ethics, 1966-1973,” published in the fall 2010 issue of the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences.

The paper examines the process by which the American Psychological Association determined that deception could be used as an acceptable research method.

Stark Finds Treasure Buried Within the Bureaucracies

Laura Stark, assistant professor of science in society, assistant professor of sociology.

Mention “records and documents of a large bureaucracy” and images of stacks of dense paperwork, rows of beige filing cabinets, and perhaps even a slight sensation of suffocation comes to mind. But mention the same phrase to Laura Stark and her pulse steps up a beat as she sees something quite different: buried treasure.

“I am interested in the power of bureaucracies and the discretion people within them have to interpret rules,” says Stark, assistant professor of science and society, assistant professor of sociology. “How people who work in big organizations, including government agencies, apply general rules to specific cases is hard work and often not intuitive at all. I also find the people who work in bureaucracies to be endlessly fascinating.”

Stark, who earned her Ph.D. in sociology

Stark’s Medical Research Ethics OpEd Published in L.A. Times

In an Oct. 8 The Los Angeles Times OpEd titled “Gaps in medical research ethics,” Laura Stark, assistant professor of science in society, assistant professor of sociology, assistant professor of environmental studies, explains flaws in the current research review system in the United States. On the heels of a U.S. apology for medical research in Guatemala, the U.S. now has on opportunity to overhaul ethics rules.

Stark shows how the ethics review process enabled the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to use federal prisoners in experiments during the 1960s. The prisoners were infected with “pneumonia, influenza and the common cold, as well as simian-virus 40, which had contaminated batches of polio vaccine given to millions of Americans.” Attention to where our present-day ethics came from shows the flaw in our current system.

Stem Cell Documentary Screening and Discussion – Wed. Oct. 7

Laura Stark, assistant professor of sociology and Science in Society, is screening a new documentary on stem cell research policy, called “The Accidental Advocate”. All members of the Wesleyan community are welcome to view the film, which explores one person’s desire to learn more about the complex—and highly politicized—world of stem cell research.

“The filmmaker and her father (a paralyzed former physician who is the protagonist in the documentary) are scheduled to discuss the film, as well,” Stark says.

The screening begins at 5 p.m. in Film Studies 190 (Powell Family Cinema) on Wednesday, Oct. 7.

Please note that the screening will be followed by a catered reception and discussion with Jessica Gerstle, the filmmaker, and her father, Dr. Claude Gerstle (the film’s protagonist). The discussion will cover health advocacy, documentary filmmaking, and the politics of stem cell research.

Laura Stark was featured in a recent profile in The Wesleyan Connection.

Laura Stark: New Sociology and Science in Society Assistant Professor

Laura Stark, assistant professor of science in society, assistant professor of sociology, is new to Wesleyan this fall semester.

Laura Stark, assistant professor of science in society, assistant professor of sociology, is teaching The Sociology of Medicine and Regulating Health, both part of the Science in Society Program.

Laura Stark has joined the Department of Sociology and the Program in Science in Society as assistant professor.

Her research focuses on the social history and sociology of medicine, research ethics, human subject research, Institutional Review Boards (IRBs), and group/committee decision-making in healthcare.

Stark graduated from Cornell University in 1998 with a bachelor’s in communication. She went on to obtain a Master’s and a Ph.D. in Sociology from Princeton University, ending in 2006. She was awarded the biannual prize for best dissertation from the History of Science Society’s Forum for the History of the Human Sciences for her work titled “Morality in Science: How Research is Evaluated in the Age of Human Subjects Regulation.”

Stark was a postdoctoral fellow in Northwestern University’s Department of Sociology and Program in Science in Human Culture Program. She been working