IRB: Frequently Asked Questions

1.  I believe my research (study) is “Exempt from Review”. Do I need to inform the IRB?

Yes.  No research is exempt from review. All research with human subjects must be reported to and approved by the IRB. The status of “Exempt” may be recommended by the investigator, but is determined by the IRB. “Exempt” status is provided in particular cases (see Types of Research and Review) and means that the work is exempt from continuing review.

2.  I require students in my courses to conduct research projects that involve collecting information (interview, survey, et al.) from humans. Does course-based research require IRB approval?

Maybe. This is a gray area for all IRB’s. The current leanings are twofold: a) inform the IRB, perhaps on a course or departmental basis, of the sorts of work you do; and b) if the work does not leave the classroom, it generally does not need IRB approval.

3.  Is the IRB going to judge the quality and nature of the research I am proposing? Isn’t this just another hurdle between me and my work?

Yes, the IRB is going to judge your work. However, the IRB’s concern is exclusively for the protection of the rights and welfare of humans involved in research. If the research proposal does not adequately care for human rights and welfare and/or the research design and process does not diligently protect those values both for humans as subjects in the work and humans for whom generalizations and conclusions would be drawn, the IRB will not approve the research.

4.  Does it matter if my research involves a grant, contract or work for some outside agency?

No, it doesn’t matter. All human subjects research associated with the College requires IRB approval, regardless of whether that work is funded or not.

5.  The College has asked me to collect information for them to help decide why students come here, how well we’re doing . . .  Doesn’t this mean that the work is already approved?

No. Only the IRB may approve research involving human subjects.

6.  My research will be at/with another college. Whose approval do I need?

All of them. If your work is exclusively at one institution, you need the approval of that IRB. If your work is at several institutions, you need the approval of each and every IRB.

7.  How do I know whether or not I need to inform the IRB and obtain their approval?

Ask. Contact any member of the Board or the Associate Academic Dean’s Office.

8.  My research has been approved by the IRB. Do I need to do anything further?

Both Federal and College policies require continued reporting and usually continued review on at least an annual basis.


Margaret Sherrer, Associate Professor, Psychology
Vail 425