Trauma Research and IRB

Division 56 has received increasing complaints and concerns from faculty and student researchers who are negotiating with their IRB's in trauma research. IRB's are often unaware of the research that shows that disclosure of trauma history in research settings falls under the category of minimal risk in most cases. Just as those unaware of research on suicide fear that asking questions about depression and suicide might spark a suicidal act, reviewers who are unaware of research on trauma at times believe that trauma disclosure is a negative act. Thus, IRB's at times not only block research that would meet ethical standards within the trauma field, but also might require statements in informed consents that might be damaging to trauma survivors who are research participants (such as informing them that trauma disclosure is likely to cause long term distress in some minority of cases).

The Executive Committee of Division 56 wrote a helpful guide to provide general information about the literature on trauma research risk. The statement is not a set of standards intended to define ethical and unethical research, is not meant to be proscriptive, and is not an official APA standard. Rather, the statement is intended to be used to provide information to researchers and IRB's who are interested in the latest information on risks of trauma research.