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Information About the IRB at Carleton

The IRB is not a college committee in the usual sense. Rather, the IRB is subject to the regulations of a federal agency: the Office for Human Research Protections (OHRP) within the Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS). The federal government requires that all research involving human subjects conducted by an institution that receives federal funding be reviewed in advance by an IRB at the institution. Even if a specific research project is not funded by the government, the IRB is still expected to review it because Carleton receives federal funding. Like other institutions, Carleton has assured the DHHS that it will observe federal rules on this matter:

"[E]ach institution holding an OPRR-approved Assurance is expected to maintain a unified system of protections applicable to all human subjects research covered under the Assurance." [OPRR guidance, "Knowledge of Local Research Context," 27 August 1998, updated 21 July 2000. OPRR is the Office for Protection from Research Risks within the National Institutes of Health.]

"Each institution remains responsible for implementation, within its local research context, of appropriate oversight mechanisms in order to ensure compliance with the determinations of the reviewing IRB." [Ibid]

While administrators of the College might be able to restrict a research project that has received IRB approval, they may not overturn an IRB decision to disapprove a research project. However, it is the intent of the IRB to work with investigators to mutually agree on a protocol that will receive IRB approval.

IRB Composition

The Carleton IRB includes an Associate Dean of the College (serving ex-officio), at least one staff member, and one community member with no other Carleton affiliations (e.g., who is not an employee or student and is not a member of the immediate household of an employee or student). The remaining three are members of the faculty, who must be a mix of both scientists and non-scientists. (For the purposes of this committee, faculty from the Psychology Department are treated as scientists.) The Faculty Affairs Committee appoints the faculty members, while the Dean of the College appoints the staff and community members. All members serve three-year staggered and renewable terms. Efforts should be made to have a balance of gender, ethnicity, and disciplinary specialties on the Board. The Chair of the Board is elected by the members of the Board, serving a one-year term as Chair.

The members of the Carleton IRB for 2014-2015 are:

Jaime Anthony (Senior Assistant Dean of Admissions)
Kathleen Galotti (Professor of Cognitive Science)
Daniel Groll (Assistant Professor of Philosophy)
Annette Igra (Professor of History)  
Kari Nelson (community member)
Louis Newman (Associate Dean of the College, ex officio
Annette Nierobisz (Associate Professor of Sociology; on leave)
Andrea Nixon (Director of Educational Research)
Shannon Schulz (Director of Development Operations)
Christopher Tassava (IRB Chair and Associate Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations)

Any questions can be referred to Christopher Tassava, IRB Chair, at, 507-222-5833, or 1 N. College Street (3-CFR), Northfield, MN 55057.

Learn More

For historical background on the development of this entire field, a videotape entitled "Protecting Human Subjects" was distributed to department chairs and program heads in the spring of 2002. Two copies are also available in the office of the Perlman Center for Learning & Teaching (room 146, Weitz Center for Creativity). This tape discusses the evolution of federal and professional standards and explains how IRBs generally work.

The National Institutes of Health have published a useful training module that provides investigators with a basic introduction to the principles of ethical research on human subjects.

In addition, a variety of helpful materials may be found at the United States Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS) Office of Human Research Protections.