Forms and forms and forms

I’m back at the library, feeling a little daunted by my to-do list for the next few days, but confident that it can all be conquered with baby steps. I am pleased, however, to report that I just ticked something major off my list.

After much fretting, I have just handed in my GREB application (cue applause-track here).

Now if you don’t know what GREB is, count yourself lucky. Here’s the idiots guide:

The General Research Ethics Board (GREB) is the body that helps researchers (which is what we all are at grad school) avoid making terrible ethical mistakes in their work. It’s in order to prevent cases like that of the Stanford Prison Experiment in which a planned two-week investigation into the psychology of prison life had to be stopped early because the college students who were participating (some taking on the roll of guard, some taking on the roll of prisoner) essentially went nuts (the guards got sadistic, the prisoners got stressed out and depressed). GREB’s role is to try and prevent that kind of thing from happening in the future.

That’s why anyone who is doing research with ‘human subjects’ has to have all of their research approved by a GREB committee in order to ensure that it isn’t ethically dubious and that it won’t be taking shameful advantage of anyone or causing undue harm. Though I have nothing against avoiding ethically questionable research practices, I HATE the practice of filling out forms (and attaching appendices) that can make it feel like you’re only feeding the bureaucracy machine. Hello, stress! Hello anxiety!

I especially hate filling out endless PDF forms that refuse to save your data — a fact you only discover AFTER you’ve filled in and ‘saved’ the form, intent on printing it out for your supervisor. gah. (yesterday was frustrating).

What’s really been frustrating for me in this process is that – again – because I’m making a film rather than writing a traditional thesis, it’s hard to fill in a one-size-fits-all form. Because my film (a personal documentary) is going to include my mentally handicapped older sister — viewed by GREB as a ‘vulnerable person’ –and because my interview subjects are going to be parents (hello, potential conflict of interest?), I’ve been warned more than once that getting my project approved may take some doing.

And of course, we can’t start our research until we’ve got an ethical thumbs-up.

Which is why I am so very thrilled to at least have got my forms in to the research office this morning. Though I fear it may be a slow-moving one, a ball is in motion…

I’ll keep you posted on how things unfold.

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