Written By: Everly Brown, Head of Information Services, firstname.lastname@example.org, Health Sciences and Human Services Library, University of Maryland, Baltimore.
The University of Maryland, Baltimore’s Health Sciences and Human Services Library (HS/HSL) developed a unique service to review consent forms for researchers on campus that has been running successfully for nearly 4 years. Library faculty serving on the Institutional Review Board (IRB) took note of complaints by fellow IRB members about how difficult the consent forms submitted for their review were to read. IRB forms were required to be at a seventh-grade reading level but rarely met this stipulation. HS/HSL librarians realized that this was a great opportunity to work with principal investigators to create understandable and clear consent forms for human research subjects. As part of the Research Connection: Expertise to Advance Your Success program, http://www.hshsl.umaryland.edu/services/researchconnection.cfm, the library staff developed a free service with trained librarians and paraprofessionals who review IRB forms. Investigators submit their review via an online submission form and review staff guarantees a 3-business day turnaround. Library staff members review the form and suggest changes to adjust the reading level and provide suggestions for edits and formatting for clarity and brevity. Since this program’s implementation, we have processed 49 consent forms with 17 so far this year; these have ranged from 1 to 36 pages long.
The work HS/HSL staff completed on this project supporting clear health communication has been very satisfying. It has increased the library’s visibility on campus, facilitated new relationships with faculty and administration, and given the reference staff some challenging projects. We’ve heard back from several grateful researchers and have received positive feedback from our satisfaction surveys. One respondent said she would use many of the librarian’s suggestions on future consent forms, and another asked to meet with the reviewer to learn more about best practices for clear communication. We also have a presence on the Human Research Protections Program’s website with a note that strongly encourages researchers to use this free service, http://hrpo.umaryland.edu/researchers/consents.html. We hope that research subjects have benefited from these efforts as well.
I am proud of this service as it gives our talented Reference Department a chance to interact with faculty beyond the Reference Desk and offers interesting and complicated projects that benefit the University and patients participating in human research.