John H. Noble, Jr. – AHRP Board Member

John H. Noble, Jr., Ph.D.

John H. Noble, Jr., Ph.D., retired in August, 2005, from his position as Endowed Professor for Social Justice, The Catholic University of America. He has been Professor Emeritus since 1993 at the State University of New York at Buffalo, where he held joint appointments in the School of Social Work and in Rehabilitation Medicine. Over the years, his research and analytic interests have focused on the evaluation of public policy as it furthers or hinders the autonomy of disabled people. These interests converge on the human rights mission of the Alliance for Human Research Protection.

In the early 1970s when the federal government was reacting to the Tuskegee scandal and the involvement of the Public Health Service in the unethical investigation of the sequelae of syphilis in human beings, he was exploring the strengths and weaknesses of peer review. He concluded that peer review as conducted by government agencies failed to probe the quality and ethics of research proposals because it did not follow through with an evaluation of the products of research. Failure to evaluate the outcome of government-funded research has resulted in unjustifiable, duplicative, even trivial research. Dr. Noble recommended that government agencies invest in end-product evaluation of research and dissemination of the results. See John H. Noble, Jr. (September 13, 1974). Peer review: Quality control of applied social research. Science, 185:916-921. Go to: http://faculty.cua.edu/noble/PeerReview74.pdf

In a 1977 article, he probed the limits of cost-benefit analysis as a guide for assessing the design of government R&D programs and rehabilitation services. The autonomy interests of persons with disabilities, he found, were undermined by a combination of unacknowledged assumptions and values pursuant to an utilitarian agenda. See John H. Noble, Jr. (1977). The limits of cost-benefit analysis as a guide to priority‑setting in rehabilitation. Evaluation Quarterly, 1:347-380. Go to: http://faculty.cua.edu/noble/LimitsB-C77.pdf

Throughout the 1970s and to the present time, the concepts of disability and rehabilitation have suffered from oversimplification. Dr. Noble turned to cross-national investigation of government systems and policies to develop a disability and rehabilitation model that identifies the combination of societal and individual variables that influence the outcomes of rehabilitation. See John H. Noble, Jr. (1979). Rehabilitating the severely disabled: The foreign experience. Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law, 4:221-249. Go to: http://faculty.cua.edu/noble/Foreignexp79.pdf

In 1984, he turned to the influence that competing systems of ethics have on policy deliberations and decision-making affecting the lives and even the chance for life of persons with severe disabilities. He concluded that those who wished to promote the best interests of such people were advised to adopt John Rawls’ theory of social justice as antidote to the prevailing utilitarian theory. See John H. Noble, Jr. (1985). Ethical considerations facing society in rehabilitating severely disabled persons. In F. Ferrari & M. Sussman (Eds.), Childhood disability and family systems, special edition of Marriage and Family Review, 11(1/2):65-82, 1987. Go to: http://faculty.cua.edu/noble/EthicalConsid87.pdf

More recently, Dr. Noble explored the influence worldwide of economics, culture, and forms of government on the chance for survival and life quality of persons with disabilities and suggests ways for governments and non-governmental organizations to leverage development assistance to promote their human rights. See John H. Noble, Jr. (2003). The economics of equality: An exploration of country differences. In L.O. Gostin & H.H. Koh (Eds), Different but equal: The rights of persons with intellectual disabilities, Chapter 15. New York: Oxford University Press.

As AHRP board member, Dr. Noble has turned attention to factors influencing the quality of research involving human subjects in the behavioral and biomedical sciences. His review, Meta-analysis: Methods, strengths, weaknesses, and political uses, that appeared in the Journal of Laboratory and Clinical Medicine (2006; 147:7-20) advocates use of meta-analytic techniques to measure the extent of potential bias in scientific reports caused by the detected conflicts of interest of their authors.