Re: The survival time of chocolates on hospital wards: covert observational study
As a member of my university's Institutional Review Board (IRB), I am concerned that the authors "did not seek ethical approval" for their study. Had an investigator proceeded with a similar study without IRB approval at my institution, they would certainly be chastised and likely also be required to perform some kind of remediation before being allowed to perform future research.
For all the reasons given by the authors (no subject-identifiable data, lack of coercion, minimal risk), the study protocol would certainly have been approved as Exempt from requiring informed consent. But the lack of even seeking approval is troubling to me, as it circumvents the primary purpose of ethical review, i.e. to ensure that research subjects' rights and safety are adequately protected.
I completely understand that no one was harmed here and that the Christmas issues of BMJ intentionally contain more light-hearted research and articles. Indeed, I wish that American medical journals would follow suit.
Competing interests: No competing interests