IRB Protocol Review Process
The IRB review process is initiated by the submission of an IRB application along with all necessary supporting materials (see below.) The IRB assesses the application materials to ensure, among other things, that subject participation is voluntary and fully informed, confidentiality of human subjects is maintained and that no undue risks are posed to research subjects in the process of research.
At CSU Channel Islands (CI), most research is of a type which presents little inherent risk of harm to human subjects, so review processes are generally quick. Often, minor changes in the research application will be requested in order to clarify procedures or to bring them into line with best human subjects' research practices. Submission of a complete application and prompt revisions of the application, upon initial review of the application can facilitate the approval process to be completed within approximately 10 business days.
Occasionally, when research is proposed that focuses on potentially vulnerable populations or poses possible risks to human subjects, the IRB exercises particularly rigorous review that includes asking if the proposed research design minimizes potential risks and if the risks are justified by the potential benefits of the research. Such full board reviews take considerably longer, so researchers should plan accordingly.
IRB Review Categories
A project involving human subject research will receive one of three IRB review designations: Exempt, Expedited, and Full Review. How the project is categorized by the Board is determined by project characteristics such as the nature of proposed research, the status of research subjects, and the level of potential risk associated with participation.
The exempt designation means that the research is exempt from federal human subjects regulations; however, that designation can only be made by the IRB, and therefore still requires submission of application materials. To qualify as exempt, the research must involves human subjects in one or more of six federally-defined categories (see examples on the Northwestern Site) which present minimal risk to human subjects.
The expedited designation means that the project involves no more than minimal risk to human subjects and only involves procedures listed in one of nine federally defined categories (see examples on the Northwestern Site). If research designation is determined to qualify for expedited review, the IRB chairperson and one additional reviewer may evaluate and approve the proposed research.
Full Board Review
Projects that do not fall into either the exempt or expedited review categories must undergo a review by the full IRB, which represents the most rigorous level of review. Such research typically involves vulnerable populations (such as children, pregnant women or fetuses, prisoners, ethnic minority and people with mental impairment); projects that may involve coercion or undue influence; those that include sensitive data; those that involve some sort of deception in recruitment; and those which include more than minimal risk to subjects.
Student Research Projects
When students conduct research involving human subjects – such as masters theses, capstone projects, or any research that may be presented orally or published for public access beyond the boundaries of the classroom – the project must be reviewed and approved by the IRB. The review process for student research is no different from the regular review process – with the minor exception that a faculty member must sign on as a supervisor for the project, which includes reviewing the student proposal prior to submission to the IRB.
Classroom-based research projects are approved in a different manner. A classroom-based project/exercise is one that is assigned within a class solely for evaluating, teaching and learning research tools or for pedagogical purposes, and which will not be reported outside of the classroom. When such projects require students to interact with and gather data from human subjects, the project must be reviewed and approved by the IRB. However, in such instances, the project assignment as a whole may be approved through an expedited process (rather than each individual student project).
The supervising instructor can submit the classroom-based research project for IRB review using the Classroom-Based Research form. Documentation submitted with this form should show that the project entails routine interactions with human subjects, that students have been educated about appropriate human subjects protection practices, and that the results will not be presented outside the classroom or published in any form.
The application process requires the submission of the completed application form, along with supplementary materials which vary with the type of research being conducted as described below. You may find it helpful to review the section on Frequently Asked Questions prior to completing the application form.
Principal Investigator Certification
All researchers interacting with human subjects in any way must provide evidence of certification in the ethics of human subject research. No IRB Application will be reviewed without proof of certification. See the Training & Compliance section of the IRB Home Page for information about acceptable online training courses.
The basic application form asks for basic identifying information about the investigator(s), a summary of the research, detailed description of procedures relevant to human subjects' involvement, description of data collection and storage methods, human subject recruitment protocol, involvement of other institutions, and information on how the project will obtain consent from its subjects.
If you plan to record video of any part of your research or plan to take pictures of research subjects, you must submit a completed and signed release form with your IRB application.
For Classroom based projects use the guidelines and the link Classroom-based Research Forms (PDF, 82KB) .
For survey- and interview-based research, a copy of the research instruments (the questionnaire or interview guide/questions) must be submitted with the application.
For most forms of research, forms indicating voluntary and informed consent are required to be presented to and signed by each human subject. For such research, a consent form for the project must be submitted along with other application materials to the IRB for review. You may review sample consent forms on the forms page.
Letter of institutional cooperation
When research is being conducted at another institution or organization of any kind, or when the investigator is otherwise relying on cooperation with another institution, a letter from that institution acknowledging and supporting that relationship is required.
- Sample Institutional Letter (MS Word, 23.5 KB)
- Sample Permission Letter from Institutional Management (MS Word, 23.5 KB)
IRB Application Submission & Processing
IRB applications and all supplementary materials should be submitted electronically via email as PDF attachments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Applicants should be prepared to provide, on request, a hard copy of all application documents.
All appropriate application support documents must be provided prior to IRB review.
Timelines for Review & Approval
IRB review of projects that are eligible for Exempt or Expedited Review designations can be completed within approximately 10 business days. If your research requires Full Board Review, then review can take up to 3 months.
Often, the IRB will request revisions to application materials to ensure that the research is consistent with ethical and best practices in human subject research. If all suggested changes are made promptly, the IRB would be able to approve the research shortly after resubmission.