Does this apply to me? Depends, are you doing research with human subjects?

Research means systematic investigations intended to create generalized knowledge.
Human subjects are living people about whom a researcher collects data and/or identifiable,
private information.

If yes, then your project needs IRB review1 (even if it is a minimal risk).

  • Most faculty and senior independent study-type research using human subjects will
    require IRB review
  • The Student Research Forum requires IRB review for all human subjects research
  • IRB approval must be obtained prior to any subject recruitment or data collection.

What about classroom projects?

Any classroom project that is more than minimal risk requires IRB review.

Minimal risk means that any risks are no greater than those encountered in normal day-to-day
life. Examples of activities that are not Minimal risk:

  • Consumption of anything
  • Biological sample collection that breaks the skin
  • Questions that could cause psychological harm (e.g., traumatic or triggering events)
  • Collection of identifiable information that could be used to harm or discriminate
    against someone, even if you wouldn’t use it in that way (e.g., medical conditions,
    sexual orientation, gender identity)

Classroom projects used as means to teach or demonstrate methodology or lab skills (especially
those that will have only the classroom as the audience), rather than the creation of generalizable
knowledge may be done without IRB review as long as they meet the definition of minimal risk.
However, classroom projects (individual or group, poster or presentation) involving human
subjects that students may want to present at the Student Research Forum need IRB review.
If you are an instructor doing classroom projects involving human subjects, please complete the
free, on-line NIH training ( and consider having your students do so.
For any classroom project you’re not sure about, you can get a quick consult with any member of
the IRB (Katie Bearden, Amy Hammond (chair), Becki Murphy, and Dominic Salinas)

How long does the IRB process take?

Once you submit the paperwork and proof of IRB training (see IRB website or contact IRB
Chair), it can take up to 2 weeks, but usually less.

Why do we have to do this? Can’t you just trust me and my discretion?

The scientific community agrees that individual scientists cannot appropriately police themselves
because sometimes we make mistakes. The IRB exists to minimize risk to human subjects and
protect researchers and the College from liability.

1 Beginning in 2018, scholarly and journalistic activities (e.g., oral history, journalism, biography, literary criticism, legal research and historical scholarship), including the collection and use of information that focus directly on the specific individuals about whom the information is collected will not require review.