Project Puppy is, apparently, not human subjects research. We don't need to go through IRB.
Which is fantastic news (we don't need to go back to our participants with yet more paperwork), but also somewhat confusing news; it feels like playing Minefield and clicking on a square and having the computer tell you "yay, you didn't die!" But that only tells you about the square you're on. Fog is all around you, so you're not sure whether you can move in any direction without dying; there might be a cliff two feet to the right that you can't see.
So I asked Robin to send back the following reply, and we'll see what we get.
Thanks for your decision -- this is great news that will help our research group move forward with our work. Since we plan on doing more projects with the radically transparent research technique in the future, would you mind helping us understand why our project is not human subjects research, and whether we are close to the boundaries of any actions that would make it human subjects research? We were told during initial office hour consultations that it ought to be submitted for HSR approval, so we'd like to make sure we understand the rationale so we can make sure we submit future "radically transparent research" projects for review appropriately in the future.
The short term effects of this, however, is that now we can talk openly about Project Puppy. Actually, we can call it by its real name, and show people its data, and explain the research, and... oh, this feels good. So, without further ado: I'm going to stop calling it Project Puppy, and start using the project's proper name. Changemakers. (That's what we call it, anyway.)
The short (overly-academic-sounding) version is that we're doing "preliminary work on change knowledge through a study that investigates what exemplar changemakers understand about how transformation occurs."
What this actually means is that Linda did long interviews with 8 people who've caused substantial changes in engineering education through the course of their careers, asking them to talk about how the heck they did that, and we're trying to figure out, okay, how do they think? What makes someone able to affect that sort of change? Can we learn how to do it too? And stuff like that.
Now to put Project Kitten through the IRB process (armed with the Changemakers decision) so we can open that up to the world properly as well!