IRB Approvals…A Need for Speed?

The Institutional Review Board (IRB) plays a crucial role in the process of approving and overseeing clinical trials.  Unfortunately, the time required for protocol review is often an area of great frustration for all parties involved.  In 2009, the Association for the Accreditation of Human Research Protection Programs, Inc. (AAHRPP) surveyed 196 of their client organizations, and found that the average time from protocol submission to approval by the convened IRB was almost 49 days.

While there are many factors that contribute to these long review times, improvements can be made.  Recently, the University of Maryland’s School of Medicine IRB has reported dramatic results:

Last March it took 35 days for a full Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval for a clinical trial from the University of Maryland’s School of Medicine, which reviews more than 1,000 applications annually. This March, IRB approval time dropped to 21 days, and just 13 days in February.

And those faster approvals were completed with a staff of just three full-time analysts and four coordinators, compared to eight full-time analysts at this time last year.

Reducing the time for investigators to gain IRB approvals required the School of Medicine (SOM) to streamline its business processes, retrain its staff and alter its hiring practices, to be able to do more with less. A key part of this paradigm shift was the development of new procedures and an investigator’s toolkit complete with essential documents, including up to 40 checklists and 30 worksheets that make the submission process more efficient.

Part of Maryland’s new procedures came from working with the Huron Consulting Group, who provide a free set of tools to help IRBs streamline their procedures.  Huron will also be offering a free webinar on May 25th to discuss a model for improving IRB operations.

Turning Science Communication into a Dialogue

The Stanford School of Medicine managed to promote science stories broadly without issuing any press releases. At the national CTSA Communications Meeting, John Stafford, New Media Strategist at Stanford, shared some insights how this worked.

Depending on the science story, they posted what’s newsworthy on their blog Scope , Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, and – very important – they successfully leveraged the informal relationships with their “blogger friends”. As a result, some of their stories made it into leading science magazines and newspapers.

But the story doesn’t end here: John also demoed a few online monitoring tools to measure media reach and brand leadership. These tools provide dashboards for monitoring how many and what types of media outlets pick up science stories, and even what attitudes readers have towards those stories. Here is a list of tools that might become useful to some of our organizational initiatives:

  • Radian6: Provides a platform to listen, measure and engage with customers across the entire social web.
  • ScoutLabs: A self-serve, web-based tool that includes natural language processing techniques for sentiment and tone scoring. Read article
  • Sysomos Heartbeat: Provides constantly updated snapshots of online conversations.
  • General Sentiment: Media Measurement Dashboard, Reporting Service, and Data API.
  • Jive: Social media monitoring, engagement, and measurement.
  • Klout: Helps you identify people you might want to start a conversation with.
  • Cotweet
  • Tweetreach

For those who still seek more, Stanford will be hosting a social media conference “Medicine 2.0” in September this year.

Internet Summit 2009 – Opportunities and Trends created by Web Innovation

4 – 5 November 2009, Raleigh, North Carolina

The event will “showcase and promote forward thinking and thought leadership on topics related to the Internet economy and web oriented technologies”. The agenda includes: social media, online advertising strategies, blogging, Twitter & Real Time, search, video, email marketing, cloud, analytics, design and usability. View all agenda topics.

SpeakersMore information

Conference: Advancing Rare Diseases Research through Networks and Collaboration

Maybe this is a topic for us to tap into in the future?

According to the Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA), “this conference will provide a forum to discuss lessons learned from the Rare Diseases Clinical Research Network, highlight successful collaborations to improve rare diseases research, highlight the involvement and essential role of patient advocacy groups to facilitate research and accrual of patients, and discuss the role of best practices across research consortia and research networks for translation of basic discoveries into clinical practice in rare diseases.”

Date: July 16, 2009

Location: National Instiutes of Health Natcher Auditorium


The conference is presented by the National Center for Resources (NCRR) and the Office of Rare Diseases Research at the National Institutes of Health.


Information about the NIH Rare Diseases Clinial Research Network is available here.  

Medicine 2.0 Conference

September 16/17th, 2009 in Toronto …

…also known as the World Congress on Social Networking and Web 2.0 Applications in Medicine, Health, Health Care, and Biomedical Research.

The conference program includes aspects of “Web 2.0 Web-based services for health care consumers, caregivers, patients, health professionals, and biomedical researchers, that use Web 2.0 technologies as well as semantic web and virtual reality tools, to enable and facilitate specifically social networking, participation, apomediation, collaboration, and openness within and between these user groups”.

Mining your folders to learn more about expertise

From Bill at Indiana, an article in Technology Review on mining folders in your computer to track what you really do. This and similar efforts mining email always makes me nervous.

The article’s a summary of a human computer interaction conference session.

But mostly it reminded me that I’ve been dissapointed by the quality of information – the depth and, dare I say it ‘expertise’ – revealed in Tech Review articles. I think I cancelled the office subscription, but am open to alternatives…