Dean Spritz appointed to head of Human Subject Review Board

By Connor Midgley l Herald Contributor


The assistant dean of the School of Social and Natural Sciences (SSNS) has been appointed as the chairwoman of the university’s Human Subjects Review Board (HSRB).

Becky Spritz, a professor of psychology and public health, leads the 10-person board. The group is tasked with protecting people who participate in research or experiments, conducted either on campus or by a member of the RWU community. 

Before taking on the position, Spritz was the director of RWU’s Honors Program, and before that had actually served as the chairwoman of the HSRB once before, while she was a faculty member in the department of psychology. 

Spritz succeeds Judith Platania, head of the psychology department, who had held the position since January 2017. Platania stepped down from the position because she wanted to focus on her position in the psychology department.

“I stepped down due to newly assumed responsibilities associated with my new role as psychology department chair,” Platania said.

During her time as chairwoman, Platania worked on streamlining processes for the other committee members, creating an online application process and updating the HSRB’s website both for easier access and to better clarify HSRB policies. She also worked to ensure a smooth transition of leadership when Spritz was given the position. 

Spritz is currently working on creating a Bridges website for the HSRB, to help maintain more permanent records. She is also in the process of creating online applications for annual renewals, which involve annual updates for experiments and whether people conducting them decide to continue them or not.

The HSRB receives several experiment applications a week, the number of which has remained mostly the same for the past few years. Many of these applications are submitted by the School of Social and Natural Sciences, mainly from the departments of psychology, anthropology, sociology and political science.  

However, applications are also received from the other schools in the university, including those in the Providence campus. These applications are reviewed on a rolling basis. They are distributed amongst the board members for review. The full board meets once each semester to review proposals that require special consideration and to review HSRB process and protocols. 

Among the applications that require special consideration are those that involve research on “vulnerable populations.” These include groups like children and prisoners, the former of which in particular requires this special consideration in order to ensure their protection. The guidelines for what applications require special consideration are dictated by the Office for Human Research Protections (OHRP), which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.