Academic Affairs Policies
Human Subjects Policy
Research Involving Human Subjects
Any research involving human subjects that is supported by a federal government grant must be reviewed by the Institutional Review Board (IRB) unless it is specifically exempted from such review under section 46.101 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 45, Part 46. All other research involving human subjects, whether funded or not, also must be reviewed by the IRB. Please see Research Guidelines: Human Subject and Vertebrate Animal Study for more info (F&M login required).
The College is committed to ensuring that research involving human subjects is consistent with sound ethical principles and that it is in compliance with all applicable federal, state, and local regulations. College policy and procedures relating to research involving human subjects are based on the conclusions and recommendations in the Report of the President's Panel on Privacy and Behavioral Research, published in 1967 in Science 155: 535-538. All research involving human subjects should be subject to a regular review procedure.
Each department in which research involving human subjects is conducted in the context of College courses shall establish formal procedures, which will be used by the investigators to provide adequate safeguards against any infringement upon the rights and welfare of the subjects. The department's procedures must include a mechanism that will bring any activities that require approval of the Institutional Review Board (IRB) to the attention of the IRB, and they must assure the proper day-to-day implementation of procedures that have been approved. A document describing these procedures should be submitted to the IRB for its approval.
All research involving human subjects other than that conducted in the context of College courses must receive approval from the Institutional Review Board prior to its initiation.
All departments in which research involving human subjects is undertaken should obtain and require members of the Faculty to be familiar with the Report of the President's Panel on Privacy and Behavioral Research.
Procedures Regarding Human Subject Surveys
Surveys that require review and approval by the Institutional Review Board (IRB)
In accord with procedures governing the use of human participants in research, the following types of surveys must be submitted to the Institutional Review Board for review and approval.
Any survey conducted by faculty, professional staff, or others working on behalf of the College, for any academic or nonacademic purpose.
Surveys conducted by students for academic or nonacademic purposes, including surveys that are a part of a course-related project (for either regularly scheduled courses or for-credit independent research projects) and that intend to sample respondents other than College students or employees.
Note: All surveys to be done on behalf of student groups or administrative offices that involve campus life issues are to be presented to the Campus Life Assessment Group (chaired by the Dean of Students). It will then submit recommended surveys to IRB.
What is a "survey"?
A survey is used as part of an organized attempt to gather information on a set of individuals (or entities, e.g., a college) to inform a research project or "journalistic" report. These instruments may be in written or electronic form, and they may be quantitative or qualitative.
Casual questions to a class ("How many of you had turkey for Thanksgiving?") are not viewed as a survey. Asking students in a class to list their names, majors, and class year would not be considered a survey. Asking students in a class to indicate whether they use illegal drugs or engage in other activities that might reasonably be considered "morally questionable" would not be considered a survey but could be considered inappropriate for other reasons.
A series of interviews or oral histories, which may or may not be referred to as a survey, generally requires at least the same protocols for human subjects approval as do other forms of surveys.
An expedited review will occur if the Associate Dean of the Faculty judges that there are no substantive concerns regarding human subjects issues. In this case, s/he will indicate conditional or unconditional approval (with comments and/or suggestions in the former case) without the necessity of a full IRB review.
If the survey asks respondents about illegal activities or other attitudes or behaviors that might reasonably be considered personal and confidential, or if the respondents will include minors, a full IRB review should occur. This full review will also occur, of course, if any other material issues regarding the survey—including its impact on respondents—are present.
If the research is funded by a government agency, the project must be reviewed and approved by the College Institutional Review Board.
Surveys that require only departmental review and approval
Surveys done by students as a course project or for-credit independent study that intend to survey only College students and/or employees require only departmental review and approval.
Academic departments should have a departmental panel and review process for the evaluation of such instruments. In this case, the panel's approval will imply that the instrument is exempt from the requirement of IRB human subjects approval. If no such panel exists, or if the panel determines that a more complete review is required, the survey will be forwarded to the Associate Dean of the Faculty, who will either provide an expedited review or bring the instrument to IRB for a full review.
Special additional procedures regarding Web-based surveys
Note: Web-based surveys include those conducted via e-mail or other electronic communication media.
In addition to the human subjects approvals described above, any survey that involves the use of Web-based software in its administration must also be approved by the Office of Institutional Research (perhaps in consultation with other parties; see below). Such approval should be requested at least two weeks prior to the administration of the survey.
This provision exists to protect against the possibility of "over-surveying" of the campus community or information technology related difficulties (i.e., "clogging" of the campus network).
Priority will be assessed along two dimensions. First, priority will be given to surveys for which the use of Web-based software provides a meaningful and important advantage for the collection, analysis, and use of the resulting information.
Second, priority will be given to Web-based surveys based upon purpose as follows:
Those conducted on behalf of the institution as a whole as part of its information gathering, strategic planning, or assessment related activities (e.g., National Survey of Student Engagement).
Those that are a component of a faculty member's scholarly activity.
Those that are a component of an individual student's for-credit independent research project.
For surveys that seek to acquire information regarding campus life issues, the Office of Institutional Research will consult with the Campus Life Assessment Group for its opinion.
For surveys that relate to a faculty member's scholarship or to an individual student's independent research project, the Office of Institutional Research will consult with the Institutional Review Board for its opinion.
Approval of a Web-based survey may be conditional on limitations to the number and scope of students (or others) who will comprise the sample of respondents.
Note: These guidelines do not apply to surveys conducted by the Center for Opinion Research as part of its normal activities, unless the survey has specifically been arranged on behalf of a faculty or professional staff member, student, other individual(s) working on behalf of the College, or administrative office to inform its work. Procedures regarding the Center for Opinion Research are dealt with elsewhere.
General approval of an earlier version by Committee on Grants (April 11, 2005) and Campus Life Assessment Group (April 19, 2005), endorsed by Senior Staff (November 11, 2005) and Faculty Council (November 9, 2006).
Approved by Senior Staff: November 2014
Policy Maintained by: The Office of the Provost, Associate Dean of Faculty
Last Reviewed: October 19, 2022