On-Target With On-Site IRB Reviews and Approvals


A growing number of student submissions in the Department of Psychology led to a backlog of reviews for the social-behavioral IRB. Student applications for exemption/expedited review were taking up disproportionate time because they were often poorly prepared. The backlog of reviews eventually led to numerous complaints and inquiries from the Department. 

Description of the Program
To teach students how to prepare better applications, the social-behavioral IRB initially proposed a protocol pre-review process within the Department of Psychology, engaging the faculty. The proposal was favored by high-ranking members of the Department, but other faculty did not back this plan, feeling that it increased departmental workload. A new approach needed to be taken.

The social-behavioral IRB therefore proposed a new on-site review process for the Department. These are protocol reviews conducted within the Department by the social-behavioral IRB staff, who are also IRB members. On-Site Review is limited to student applications for exemption or expedited review. The application must be received by the IRB at least 48 hours in advance of the announced on-site day, and both the student and his or her faculty advisor must be in attendance at the scheduled appointment. Each appointment lasts 30 minutes or less. If revisions are required, the student can make these changes in real-time on their laptop or other device during the appointment and email them to the IRB staff. If the review is finalized and nothing more is needed, an approval or exemption letter can then be generated and emailed to the student during the appointment. If for any reason the approval or exemption cannot be granted, the remainder of the review will take place via the standard review process back at the IRB office.

Results and Next Steps
We have found this process to be beneficial for the student, the faculty advisor, and the IRB office. It has resulted in better collaboration with all involved parties, and reduced review time. (Our final poster will include data on the time reduction as compared to previous years.) We are now expanding this process to include additional departments with many student protocols—Forestry and Environmental Studies and Political Science. This model can be easily adopted by other institutions to fit their needs.