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I'm thinking about conducting a research at a specific division of the university from which I received my PhD. I had a negative experience while I was there. And I keep hearing that many other students there are going through horrific experiences of abuse. I'd like to conduct a study case and perhaps better understand what's going on there. I know many other institutions have similar problems, but, as I said, I'd like to do a case study and then perhaps go from there to researching other institutions.The problem is that I don't work there, I'm just part of their alumni. I work at a different university. So, basically, this would be an independent study. My question is, given that this is not a dissertation proposal, can I simply complete the IRB form as an independent researcher? Or do I have to write a whole proposal? I know each university is different, but can someone give me an idea of how this works? I'm new to this idea. Thank you.

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    Why would you want to do that if you're already at another university? And why would your old university want to make its facilities available to someone unrelated at no cost? – Wolfgang Bangerth Nov 8 '19 at 14:41
  • Because I had a negative experience while I was pursuing my PhD. And I keep hearing that many other students there are going through horrific experiences of abuse. I'd like to conduct a study case and perhaps better understand what's going on there. I know many other institutions have similar problems, but, as I said, I'd like to do a case study and then perhaps go from there to researching other institutions. – veludo Nov 8 '19 at 16:46
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    You should probably integrate quite a lot of what you say in comments here into the question itself. That information is quite essential to any answer. – Buffy Dec 8 '19 at 16:36
  • Thank you for your suggestion, Buffy. Makes sense. – veludo Dec 9 '19 at 17:26
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Since the other university is actually the subject of your study, then I think that the IRB of your current university is the better place to judge it. It avoids a conflict of interest within the other university.

Your former colleague at the other university probably shouldn't be a co-researcher, but could be integrated into the study in another way; say as a source of information. This lets them, also, avoid a conflict.

Proposing it to the Dean at that university may also be problematic. Your "want to help them fix the problem" will very possibly not be well received. You might get quite a lot of blowback.

If they recognize the problem on their own and come to you as a consultant, then it is a different story. Otherwise you will come across as an unwelcome outsider and a disgruntled alum.

I won't recommend against your study, but I think that you should keep it as independent of the other university's administration as possible.

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  • Yes, I've done a lot of thinking and I do agree that the dean might not be very pleased to hear what I'd like to say. Thank you so much! – veludo Dec 9 '19 at 17:28
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Some universities offer their alumni access to resources (and perhaps their old affiliated email address). If your university offers this to you, you can certainly take them up on it.

You are asking for more than just access to resources, you are asking for IRB approval (presumably) to conduct a study involving people/animals. This would involve the university's legal department, and some other researchers reading through your plan. Even if you agree to pay for the experiments out of pocket (I'm going ahead and assuming you're not asking IRB approval to dissect rats, because if that's what you're planning I hope you understand that the university won't endorse it), you are asking for the university's legal endorsement of your research activity, which is not be something they'd be willing to extend to someone not officially affiliated with them.

So the short answer is - the university is not likely at all to endorse your IRB (unless it operates in a vastly different way from most places I know).

If you have a good idea which you want to push forward, why not seek employment/studies in a university? Seems like you're ready to conduct research, seems like it might be easier, no?

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  • Yes, I still have an email address that links me to it as a member of their alumni. One current professor working there has talked to me about feeling that "enough is enough", given that apparently what I experienced there was not unique. They keep seeing other students going through similarly negative situations. I would be requiring no funding. In fact, I'd like to propose this study to the dean, but I wonder if they'd take my request as something really odd. I want to help them fix the problem. – veludo Nov 8 '19 at 16:50
  • But that's something different: You state that you want to do research there. That is, as stated, not in their interest, and they're going to say no. Wanting to help them change (assuming they want to change) is not a research project, but a concrete work item for which they might want to hire someone -- but it's not research. – Wolfgang Bangerth Nov 9 '19 at 5:00
  • I still think it is research if I am able to conduct a case study and then provide them (and the academy) with the findings -- particularly if my co-researcher is the professor who has contacted me about the issue. I'm thinking about proposing this partnership to them. Thoughts? – veludo Nov 9 '19 at 15:34
  • You might want to update this answer in light of all the other info that emerged in comments here. There are important points made that weren't in the original question. – Buffy Dec 8 '19 at 16:38

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