Below we have listed a series of hypothetical cases that may assist research applicants to determine if their research should be reviewed by an Institutional Review Board. Remember also that even though your research follows one of the scenarios, the IRB may still need to review your work.
Case 1: An English professor wants to publish a paper comparing and contrasting the imagery in Keats and Shelly's poetry.
Should it be reviewed by the IRB? It will contribute to the general body of knowledge and may be considered generalizable knowledge. However, because it does not involve human subjects, it does not need to be reviewed by the IRB.
Case 2: A business faculty member wishes to conduct a study of the efficacy of different instructional techniques in learning economics, which she intends to submit for publication. As part of this study, her students must fill out a questionnaire asking for demographic information.
Should it be reviewed by the IRB? The results can be considered generalizable knowledge and the intent is to publish the information, therefore, it qualifies as research. Asking the students for personal information satisfies the criteria for the use of human subjects. The IRB would need to review this research proposal.
Case 3: Student nurses in a clinical lab will be taking blood pressures at a local community center and then discuss the data in class.
Should it be reviewed by the IRB? Although there is the use of human subjects, because there is no intention to publish or present the data nor to contribute to generalizable knowledge, it does not qualify as research by IRB's definition and will not need to be reviewed by the IRB.
Case 4: Student nurses on a clinical lab take blood pressures at a local community center. A group then decides to analyze the information and wish to present their findings and recommendations to a meeting of the state nursing association.
Should it be reviewed by the IRB? Once the group decides to use their findings to contribute to the general body of knowledge, it then qualifies as research using human subjects and falls within the purview of the IRB. It will need to be reviewed by the IRB prior to submission to the nursing association.
Case 5: A medical researcher contacts the college about doing a double blind study on the effects of ingesting large amounts of caffeine by students.
Should it be reviewed by the IRB? The study involves the ingesting of high doses of a substance with unknown consequences; review of the research proposal would be required by the IRB. Additionally, the intent of this type of research is to contribute to generalizable knowledge.
Case 6: A campus-wide student opinion survey is conducted to ascertain how students rate various services. The information will be used by college administration to improve the delivery of services.
Should it be reviewed by the IRB? The information will be used for internal college purposes and is specific to the college only, thus, it does not contribute to generalizable knowledge. An IRB review is not necessary.
Case 7: A campus-wide student opinion survey is conducted to ascertain how students rate various services. The information will be used by college administration to improve the delivery of services. A college administrator then writes an article for an educational magazine outlining how student opinion surveys can be used as instruments of change.
Should it be reviewed by the IRB? If the article is only about the use of surveys and does not use data collected from this particular survey, it does not qualify as human subject research and therefore would not need to be reviewed by the IRB. However, if the administrator uses data obtained from the survey, it both contributes to the generalizable knowledge and uses human subjects. Therefore, it would then need to be reviewed by the IRB prior to submission of the article.
Case 8: A faculty member from OCCC applies for a grant to conduct educational research involving human subjects. The granting agency stipulates that all research conducted under its auspices must receive a full review of the institution's IRB.
Should it be reviewed by the IRB? The research must receive a full review by the IRB to receive the grant and therefore must be reviewed by the IRB.
Case 9: A biomedical researcher from OCCC wants to conduct drug research at another institution. That institution's IRB only requires approval from its own IRB to conduct the research.
Should it be reviewed by the IRB? The fact that the other institution doesn't require it does not matter. The IRB at OCCC will still need to review the research proposal because there is at least a minimal risk to the human subjects and the findings will contribute to the generalizable knowledge. If approval from another IRB has already been received, the IRB at OCCC will request their documentation and considerate it when reviewing the proposal.