Is oral history still under IRB review?

Roger Horowitz's picture

Dear friends,


I have a question about the status of IRB review of oral history. It was my understanding from coverage such as that oral history was officially excluded from IRB review, effective January 2018. Yet the IRB at the Univ. of Delaware has informed me that implementation of the new rule has been delayed until July and is not likely to take place. Further the director  claims that the "key definitions of ‘research’ and ‘human subject’ will not be changed once (if) the update Common Rule goes into effect." This is an issue of critical importance to oral historians. Can anyone let me know if a delay on implementation has indeed taken place?


Roger Horowitz

Hagley Library/University of Delaware

The federal government has most recently proposed a 21 January 2019 national implementation of the revised definition of research, which frees oral history from federal oversight.

However, "institutions will be permitted (but not required) to implement" the redefinition on 19 July 2018.


I cannot guess why the Delaware IRB would believe that the new rule will not go into effect, or that definitions of research will be unchanged. The federal government says otherwise.

Hi Roger!
Does anyone know whether the International Oral History Association has discussed this issue, ethics for oral historians, as applied in other juridical systems? Such as France?