I had an unexpectedly valuable interaction with Twitter recently, the kind of serendipitous discovery which makes the format so interesting. One of my former students from a few years ago — who has know gone on to do amazing things, things which strangely intersect with my own intellectual journey — was in attendance at symposium exploring the nature of design PhD’s in North American universities. Hosted by Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Design, this intimate gathering brought together academics, researchers, and practitioners to apparently examine the state of doctoral studies and suggest possible directions for their development in the future.
I took the opportunity for much of an afternoon to follow @juropel‘s concise (of course!) tweets which so nicely documented some of the key points made during the day’s conversations. I was particularly interested to know if any of the discussion touched on a topic which I am wrestling with in the graduate design programs at my university: does design research and human-centered design, with its deep focus on the behaviors of people (aka human subjects) in the context of the design problem space, need to be vetted by IRB (institutional review boards)? I’m getting increasing pressure from academics in the social sciences about this issue, and I’m struggling to make sense of it. I feel that I need more perspective, and the folks participating in the CMU symposium probably have much to say on this.