Research on Human Subjects: Introducing the IRB

Photo by Julien
Photo by Julien

September 7, 2011 (Towson, MD): As the new academic year gets underway, the Office of Sponsored Programs & Research reminds all campus personnel that research involving the collection of data from or about human participants, requires oversight. Federal human subjects regulations, as well as University System of Maryland and Towson University policies, require that human subjects research performed by or upon Towson University faculty, staff, or students, be reviewed by an Institutional Review Board for the Protection of Human Participants and Research (IRB). These policies are in place to protect the research subjects, investigators, advisors, and the University and its professional staff from potential liability caused by issues that may arise with human subjects research.

An IRB is an administrative body, created to protect the rights and welfare of human subjects recruited to participate in research. They are particularly concerned with: making sure that participants fully understand and agree to participate in the research; protecting individuals’ rights to confidentiality and/or anonymity; protecting vulnerable populations (children, prisoners, pregnant women); determining that a project’s level of risk is acceptable and necessary; and with ensuring that protections and safeguards exist if the research should distress or harm the participants.

Data collection from human participants cannot begin until a formal notification of approval or exemption, (with an assigned number), has been received from the Towson IRB. Formal approval from the Board means that all requirements for the protection of the prospective participants have been met. The Towson IRB is registered with and maintains a Federal Wide Assurance from the Office of Human Research Protections, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Application forms are available from the Towson IRB website. In addition, the website offers information about the history and development of the IRB process, including copies of the Belmont Report and the Nuremburg Code of Ethical Principles. The website links to a number of available online tutorials providing training on ethical treatment of human subjects.

The Office of Sponsored Programs & Research (OSPR) serves as the administrative point of contact for the Towson IRB and would like to make the approval process as smooth as possible for students, faculty, staff, and faculty advisors engaging in or supervising research. Investigators -- whether students, staff, or faculty -- may contact the office regarding any questions or comments about the application process or IRB policies.  In addition, IRB workshops are offered each semester regarding research involving human participants.  Finally, IRB members are available to make brief presentations to classes regarding the IRB application and approval process; presentations can be scheduled through OSPR by calling (410) 704-2236 or email Faculty teaching research methods as part of their curriculum are particularly encouraged to inquire guest lecture opportunities.

Office of Sponsored Programs & Research
212E Administration Building

Phone: 410-704-2236
Fax: 410-704-4494




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