book: Behind Closed Doors

Behind Closed Doors: IRBs and the Making of Ethical Research (Chicago, 2012)

stark-cvrBehind Closed Doors makes an important contribution to our understanding of IRBs and the ethical regulation of research.”

– Charles Lidz, Science

“[S]ignificant and fascinating.”

– Alice Dreger, Journal of American History


“The writing is lucid, the analysis sharp, and the observations keen. This will be a book to be reckoned with in the decades to come.”

– Susan E. Lederer, University of Wisconsin-Madison, author of Subjected to Science

“Laura Stark, as her book title promises, takes us behind closed doors to better understand how IRBs do their work. Comfortable both in meeting rooms and archives, she skillfully analyzes the many barriers to the ethical and legal conduct of human experimentation.”

– David J. Rothman, Columbia University, author of Strangers at the Bedside

“This is a creatively designed, sensitively analyzed, reliably documented, and elegantly terse study.”

– Jack Katz, Symbolic Interactionism

“[T]his is one of the most important books concerned with the governance of research ethics, particularly in the social sciences, to have appeared in recent times. It deserves to be widely read by social scientists, applied ethicists who seek to comment on research ethics in the social and natural sciences and, perhaps most importantly, the academic and non-academic bureaucrats who are involved with the ethical governance of academic research.”

– Nathan Emmerich Times Higher Education

“Stark’s book combines lively and entertaining writing about the historical development of IRBs with careful research on their current operation. All in all, her account provides a good resource for both lay and expert readers.”

– Health Affairs

Behind Closed Doors: IRBs and the Making of Ethical Research is actually two books in one. The first is a revelatory look at how instructional review boards (IRBs) actually operate in practice, based on the author’s experience watching three IRBs in action. The second is a startling analysis of the origin of the first ethics review board, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Clinical Research Committee, and the spread of IRBs, starting in 1966, to other research institutions.”

– Norman M. Goldfarb Journal of Clinical Research Best Practices

“[L]ucid and engaging. . . . [A] wonderfully stimulating book that should be widely read and included on the syllabi of many graduate seminars to come.”

– Carla Nappi New Books in Science, Technology, and Society

“Stark provides a fascinating account of how ethics for human subject research has become organized in the United States; its short chapters and careful arguments make Behind Closed Doors a very teachable book. . . . [T]his is a real contribution to our understanding of IRBs and why change is now necessary. Even those who know this history will have much to learn here.”

– Susan M. Reverby Isis

“Stark’s exploration of the history and workings of IRBs should appeal to anyone with an interest in research ethics.”

– Medical Writing

Behind Closed Doors is a novel and important addition to the literature on the governance of experimentation on human subjects. It will appeal to academic scholars in the history of science and medicine, sociology, bioethics, and postwar American history.”

– Gerald Kutcher, author of Contested Medicine: Cancer Research and the Military