Procedure for the Ethical Review of Research Projects Involving Human Participants
The Institutional Review Board (IRB) at Johnson State College, established in 2003, reviews faculty, student and staff proposals involving research with human participants to ensure the safety and protection of the participants.
Do class or student projects need to be reviewed?
Generally, “research with human participants” refers to a data-gathering process in which living humans serve as subjects and the intention is to publicly present or publish research findings or otherwise contribute to general knowledge. These data are gathered through either interaction or intervention and may include identifiable, private information.
As per this definition of “research,” many institutions do not require ethical review of student research projects or class observations if these activities are seen as part of a pedagogical or training process rather than a data-gathering process. However, these projects may pose the most concern, and they provide a ripe opportunity to educate would-be researchers about professional ethics. As such, the IRB at Johnson State College also reviews student projects that involve collecting data about human participants.
If participants give “informed consent” does a project still need IRB review?
Yes. Informed consent from participants does not guarantee that a research protocol is ethical, because some individuals will consent to procedures that are harmful or unethical. Therefore, obtaining consent from prospective participants does not negate IRB review.
What is the procedure for reviewing student or class research projects?
As the first line of defense in protecting research participants, the class instructor should first educate students about pertinent ethical issues for consideration, review student proposals involving human participants, then contact the IRB Chair with a brief synopsis of the proposed research. The IRB will review the proposed project(s) and communicate any concerns to the instructor, who will then be responsible for ensuring that students carry through as instructed in order to uphold ethical standards.
How do instructors submit a proposal for review?
Complete the IRB “Request for Review of Research Proposal” and “Outline for Research Proposals” forms and submit them to the IRB Chair by email. Student researchers must have a faculty sponsor; that sponsor should be identified in the email to the IRB Chair when submitting a proposal.
How long does IRB review take?
Projects are reviewed as they are received, with a typical turnaround time of under two weeks. Most projects (e.g., those involving anonymous, voluntary participation and benign research topics) are exempt from full review; others may undergo expedited review (e.g., projects that require written informed consent, confidentiality, etc.) or — in the case of student research conducted for a class in which the data will not be disseminated beyond the classroom — may undergo an abbreviated review.