Information About the IRB at Carleton

The Institutional Review Board (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 Policy for the Protection of Human Subjects (a.k.a. "the Common Rule," as revised in 2017 and updated in 2018*) requires that all research on human subjects that is funded by the federal government must be reviewed in advance by an IRB to ensure it is consistent with ethical standard. Like many other institutions, Carleton College has filed a "Federal Wide Assurance" (FWA) with the Department of Human Health and Services stating that the College will comply with federal standards on all research with human subjects (whether or not directly funded by federal government). 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.

 * The federal Department of Human Health and Services has issued revisions to the federal Common Rule on the Protection of Human Subjects which were to be implemented on January 19, 2018. However, the Department has delayed implementation of the new rule until July 19, 2018, and further delays are possible. Accordingly, projects submitted for review before July 19, 2018, remain subject to the old rule. 

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 four 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.

Members of the Carleton IRB, 2017-18:

Jaime Anthony (Associate Dean of Admissions)
Gretchen Hofmeister (Associate Dean of the College, ex officio)
Tun Myint (Associate Professor of Political Science)
Kari Nelson (Community Member)
Layla Oesper (Assistant Professor of Computer Science)
Lisa Pillow (Collections Strategy and Development Librarian)
Kim Smith (IRB Chair and Professor of Environmental Studies and Political Science)
Cherlon Ussery (Associate Professor of Linguistics)
Charlotte Whited (Administrative Assistant to the Director of Corporate & Foundation Relations)

Any questions can be referred to the IRB chair, Kim Smith, Professor of Environmental Studies and Political Science, at 507-222-4123 or 1 N. College Street (3-CFR), Northfield, MN 55057.

Learn More

For historical background on the development of this entire field, a video titled "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 video 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.