Monday, September 15, 2008

Polyamory Research and CARAS

I recently agreed to serve as a member of an Institutional Review Board ("IRB") at CARAS - the Community-Academic Consortium for Research on Alternative Sexualities. The polyamory IRB's role will be to review and approve research proposals applying NIH standards for researchers using human subjects. In doing so we can better assure that members of the polyamory community who are asked to participate in studies and provide research data can do so with confidence.

More specifically the polyamory IRB will be responsible for certifying that the proposed study will be conducted so as not to do any harm to the study participants. CARAS's goal is to be the important link between researchers and study groups made up of community volunteers so researchers can find the study participants they need and participants can be assured that there are adequate controls in place so they will be comfortable with what they are getting into.

I'm very excited about this. There is a lot of interest in this realm of research these days, and it's about time - we need to know a lot more about how our polyamorous relationships work and how they don't when they don't and why. We especially need more scientific evidence about how children do in poly families, since family courts tend to decide against poly parents absent concrete scientific evidence that children are not being put at risk.

CARAS has been working on putting the right people in place to launch itself into this vital work, and its directors are just about there. Approvals from NIH must be granted, i.e. proof that the various review boards for BDSM, swinging and polyamory are all suitably trained and qualified, and then we'll be up and running.

It is extremely gratifying to see that what was no more than a fond wish five years ago is coming to fruition, that there are both qualified researchers interested in studying our alternative sexuality communities, and that there are professionals out there who are putting together the approval apparatus to facilitate making it happen. In addition to CARAS and its work, as well as informal groups of researchers interested in studying swinging and BDSM, for at least a couple of years now there has been a very active yahoogroup focused on polyamory research where many academic researchers, student researchers, polyamory advocates and other interested persons continue to gather, network and share papers that they post to the files section of that group. You can find out about the poly researchers group here.

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