Review Process

Overview of the IRB Review Process

The IRB review process at Grinnell College is designed to be quick and easy for most users. First, please note that completion of an ethics training module is required before initiating any research with human subjects. A link to the online ethics training module is provided on the Resources page. Alternatively, you can reach the ethics training module from within Pioneer Web by clicking the “Community” tab and then locating the “IRB – Ethics Training” link.

For student projects, the next step is for the supervising faculty member to determine whether the project needs to be submitted for IRB review. Many class projects do not need to be reviewed by the IRB because they do not meet the formal definition of research with human subjects requiring IRB review, according to federal regulations. Please see the Grinnell College IRB policy regarding student projects on the Documents page for more information.

Generally, student MAP projects and faculty research projects do require IRB review if they involve human subjects. However, many of the studies done at Grinnell will qualify under the exemption categories defined in the relevant federal regulations. Thus, most researchers should begin with the short Exempt Research Form. If you determine that your work fits under one of the specified categories, please complete and submit the form. You will receive an email copy of the completed form as confirmation that it was submitted successfully. The IRB will review the form and determine whether the project is exempt, usually within 7-10 days. It is important to note that the federal regulations specify that the IRB, and not the researchers themselves, should decide whether a particular study is exempt.

If your research project does not fit any of the exemption categories, or if the IRB determines that the project is not exempt, please complete the full IRB Proposal Form. Most projects that require this form, assuming that they pose minimal risks to the participants, will still qualify for expeditious review. Proposals eligible for expeditious review are reviewed by one member of the IRB, and a decision is typically reached within 7-10 days. Projects that involve sensitive topics, focus on vulnerable populations, or pose greater than minimal risks to the participants will require full board review. The IRB meets twice monthly (currently the first and third Tuesdays of each month) to conduct full board reviews as necessary, so decisions on proposals that do require full board review may not be immediate and researchers should plan accordingly.