Wednesday, March 18, 2015

"When you earn the AAHRPP seal, you earn a place among the world’s most respected, trustworthy research organizations."

Yes, that "AAHRPP seal."  How could we forget?  For years, that AAHRPP seal constituted the key exhibit in the U's research propaganda display. University officials waved it around as irrefutable evidence that the University of Minnesota was vigilant in protecting its research subjects.  Never mind that research institutions shell out big bucks to buy AAHRPP accreditation. Put aside the fact that AAHRPP has managed to accredit corporate felons such as Pfizer.  According to former VP for Research Tim Mulcahy,  it was "continuous accreditation" by AAHRPP which proved conclusively that the the "University’s human research protection program is recognized as one of the best in the country, and its record speaks for itself."

That was in 2011. What do we make of that AAHRPP seal now, after a damning external review arranged by AAHRPP itself has shown just how bad the U's research protection program really is?

According to Public Citizen, AAHRPP has a lot to answer for. Public Citizen wants AAHRPP to rescind its accreditation, which seems only fair.  But the larger question is how the U ever managed to become accredited in the first place, given all of its glaring problems.  Here is an excerpt from Monday's letter:

Moreover, the findings of the external review team raise serious doubts about and undermine public confidence in the quality, reliability, and meaningfulness of AAHRPP’s accreditation program. AAHHRP’s website characterizes accreditation by the organization as follows:

"AAHRPP accreditation indicates that your organization follows rigorous standards for ethics, quality, and protections for human research. When you earn the AAHRPP seal, you earn a place among the world’s most respected, trustworthy research organizations."

The external review team’s report documents a pattern of failures by UM’s human subjects protection program that is obviously incompatible with “rigorous standards for ethics, quality, and protections for human research.” The public deserves to know how AAHRPP failed to detect the serious problems identified by the external review team before granting full accreditation status to UM’s human research protection program following its most recent accreditation renewal application.

Apparently, none of this comes as a surprise to the U.  Despite all of its public boasting that its research protection program is "above reproach," university officials have been preparing for trouble.  According to the June minutes of the IRB Executive Committee meeting, the university hired the Western IRB - Copernicus Group to "assist with the AAHRPP re-accreditation  process" last year. And its application for re-accreditation was scheduled for submission to AAHRPP in September of 2014.

Six months later, we have still heard nothing.

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