Board reviews use of humans in research projects

Jessica Dreschel

About 25 faculty members met Friday for the Institutional Review Board’s workshop on human research subjects.

IRB officials gave short presentations on the human subject approval process in the first workshop of its kind.

“This was a unique opportunity to have professionals from the highest levels of the IRB come here to walk us through the application process,” said Mary Lou Holly, director of the Faculty Professional Development Center.

The IRB National Research Act was passed in 1974. The act mandated all research proposals be reviewed by a university board. Prior to the act, if research could hurt subjects, it went unnoticed, administrator Katherine Light said.

The IRB reviews applications for research involving human subjects. The IRB makes sure the research follows both university and federal guidelines.

It is important for universities to follow IRB regulations.

“Universities have sometimes gotten into trouble when they ignore federal guidelines. Some have lost federal funding and grants,” IRB member Sheldon Wicks said.

Vice Chairwoman Deborah Barnbaum spoke first about the ethical foundation of IRB regulations.

“The benefits have to outweigh the risks,” she said. “Whatever comes from the research has to be worth the trouble and the time put into the research.”

IRB Chairman Stanley Wearden went over the application itself. He advised applicants to ask questions.

“Don’t be reluctant to ask someone for advice. Usually when an application is rejected, it’s not because of a problem with the research, but with how it was explained,” Wearden said.

Light spoke about common application problems. The top two are forgetting to list an adviser’s name and writing wordy project summaries, Light said.

“The workshop helped introduce new faculty members to the way the IRB works. Different universities have different systems,” Light said.

The IRB is busy.

“We get over 500 applications a semester,” Light said. The departments of psychology and sociology as well as the colleges of nursing, education and communication and information, Light said.

Contact academic technology reporter Jessica Dreschel at [email protected].