Cover of Regulating Human Research by Sarah Babb
Regulating Human Research
IRBs from Peer Review to Compliance Bureaucracy
Sarah Babb


January 2020
208 pages.
from $22.00

Cloth ISBN: 9781503610149
Paper ISBN: 9781503611221



Institutional review boards (IRBs) are committees that protect human research subjects from ethical abuses. Regulating Human Research provides a fresh look at these influential and sometimes controversial boards, tracing their historic transformation from academic committees to compliance bureaucracies: non-governmental offices where specialized staff oversee, define, and apply ambiguous federal regulations. In opening the black box of contemporary IRB decision-making, increasingly organized like an assembly line, author Sarah Babb argues that compliance bureaucracy is an adaptive response to the dynamics and dysfunctions of American governance. Yet this solution of outsourcing has unintended consequences, including the creation of profitable compliance industries.

About the author

Sarah Babb is Professor of Sociology at Boston College. She served on the Boston College IRB for three years starting in 2009-10.