The New Censorship: Institutional Review Boards

85 Pages Posted: 17 May 2005

Date Written: May 2005


Are federal regulations on Institutional Review Boards - commonly known as IRBs - compatible with the First Amendment? The regulations aim to protect human subjects by creating a system of licensing research. Under this system, universities establish IRBs, and researchers must get the prior permission of an IRB before doing research on human subjects. At first glance, it may seem only appropriate that researchers should get permission before performing research on human beings. The First Amendment, however, prohibits the federal government from imposing a system of licensing speech or the press, and it therefore seems necessary to consider whether the regulations on IRBs are unconstitutional.

Keywords: First Amendment, Censorship, Academic Freedom, Institutional Review Boards, Unconstitutional Conditions

JEL Classification: I18, K10, K32

Suggested Citation

Hamburger, Philip, The New Censorship: Institutional Review Boards (May 2005). Available at SSRN: or

Philip Hamburger (Contact Author)

Columbia University - Law School ( email )

435 West 116th Street
New York, NY 10025
United States

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