Information About the IRB at Carleton
During the academic year, applications are processed on the Thursday after submission at 5:00 p.m. The IRB would like to see a fully-developed plan and accompanying documentation (e.g. a questionnaire or scripts when the subjects are likely to be interviewed). In the case where students are the researchers, the applications must be reviewed by a Research Advisor before they are processed by the IRB.
When an application is turned in, the chair asks a member of the board to be Primary Reviewer. This reviewer reads the application and the supporting materials. Then, he/she prepares an analysis and a recommendation for distribution to other IRB members. If they agree with the recomendation, the reviewer sends an e-mail message to the applicant explaining the finding. The normal findings are:
a. Many applications can be Exempt from IRB review because they either make use of existing records, involve standard educational/psychological tests, or for other resons listed in the federal regulations. However, it is up to the IRB (not the researcher) to determine whether a project is Exempt.
b. Most other applications can be dealt with on an Expedited basis because there is no more than minimal risk of harm to the human subjects and they fall into one of several categories or research listed in the federal regulations.
c. An occasional application will require a Full Review. This can entail a delay of several weeks because the IRB must hold a convened meeting. Projects that will misinform or mislead the human subjects so as not to taint their responses will always trigger a Full Review.
Most applications are dealt with in a week to ten days. The researcher should not wait until last minute to submit his/her application. Delays may result from unusual circumstances, during finals, or during breaks, but 90% of delays are due to inadequate or missing Consent Forms. We urge all applicants to submit a Consent Form. (In some cases, the IRB may determine that your research is Exempt, in which case you are not required to submit a Consent Form. However, it is in your interest to submit a Consent Form regardless in order to avoid any unnecessary delays.)
Doing research that involves human subjects is a privilege, not a right. The IRB has dealt with numerous applications and will work with applicants on meeting the federal requirements.
However, the IRB cannot approve projects submitted after the fact (prior review is necessary to insure compliance with federally defined criteria for ethical treatment of human subjects, particularly when the intent is to contribute to generalizable knowledge: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Thus research done without IRB approval MUST NOT BE USED IN ANY PRESENTATION OR PUBLICATION. Please be aware that IRB approval is critical for both Carleton related work (e.g. comps), as well as professional endeavors outside of Carleton. In fact, increasing restrictions are being placed on publication in professional journals of research conducted without IRB approval. Thus, we urge you to plan ahead and consider possible future uses of the data to be collected (e.g. class projects that do not require IRB approval would require IRB approval if used for comps and/or publication); and obtain necessary approval in advance. If you have collected data without IRB approval for a class project or other non-research purpose and later decide to pursue research that might build on or potentially use this data (for example, in a comps project), you must contact the Chair of the IRB to discuss restrictions and possible ramifications.
By teaching students about the ethical treatment of human subjects, working with them on the applications, and treating this matter as an opportunity for ethical reflection rather than an irksome requirement, faculty are helping to prepare students to understand obligations they may be expected to shoulder as adults.
If you have any questions, please contact:
Chair, Carleton IRB
One North College Street
Northfield, MN 55057
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 which is located in the Weitz Center for Creativity, Room 146. This tape discusses the evolution of federal and professional standards and explains how IRBs generally work.
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.