Holidays, inclement weather, can complicate IRB meeting scheduling

It’s that time of year again — winter (which is kinda of feeling like potentially a real thing so far this year) and the holidays both loom. Keep that in mind in your end-of-year planning if you have approval deadlines you really, truly need to meet.

Here’s a reminder that, for reasons that are a mystery to us, the IRB office staff is considered nonessential personnel. That designation means that when UAMS decides it’s a serious inclement weather day and closes nonessential areas, the IRB office is closed. When those days fall on an IRB meeting Tuesday, the meeting is canceled. A few years ago, that happened two Tuesdays in a row, a situation we still have nightmares about, given the number of reviews we had to catch up on afterward. Office closures affect the reviews of all kinds of studies — full board, expedited, and exempt status reviews.

Also, we can’t rule out the possibility of an inability to reach quorum on Tuesday meetings days that fall during holiday weeks. We have no choice but to cancel meetings if too many reviewers are unavailable. Trust us, we try every trick in the book to make sure we have enough reviewers, but our volunteer reviewers have lives too, so we understand if we can’t get enough people together to have meeting. Meeting agendas tend to be light during holiday weeks, we’ve noticed, but we try to review everything as quickly as we can.

The Tuesdays of Nov. 21 and Dec. 26 are the ones most likely to be affected by the holiday issue, we’re guessing. Researchers, if you have submissions needing review or approval around those times, or during other winter weeks when office closures may be an issue, please submit them with plenty of lead time. Keep in mind that your submission may need to be reviewed by several other offices before it is forwarded to the IRB, which can take some time. IRB reviewers, please take a look at your calendars and see if you may be available on those holiday week afternoons, whether or not that’s your regular meeting date. We may need to call upon you to fill in for someone who can’t make it.