IRB Guidelines

IRB Committee

Westminster College’s IRB Committee is a formally organized faculty committee with a minimum of one member from each academic school. One member is also required to be unaffiliated with the college or a community member. The membership roster rotates and is available from the deans or the faculty chair. Members of the committee have a variety of expertise and research experiences that allow for diverse understandings and expertise.

The IRB Committee’s purpose is to protect the safety, welfare, privacy, and rights of human subjects. It is not the IRB’s objective to pass judgement on other aspects of the research except as they relate to the risk-to-benefit ratio of the research activity.

Principle Investigators

Principle Investigators (PI) are required to be faculty or staff affiliated with the college. Students cannot perform research activities without the oversight of a Principal Investigator and will be listed as co-PIs on the forms.

If a faculty PI is applying for a federally funded grant, IRB approval is completed after the external funding is received. The PI is responsible for tracking the protocols associated with the grant. The PI will submit an email update/report to the IRB Committee on a semi-monthly basis.

IRB Approval

If you have a research proposal, follow the Decision Tree to determine whether IRB approval is necessary, and if so, whether the activity requires expedited or full IRB review.

  • If the research is a non-reviewed activity, no action is required.
  • If the research qualifies for an exemption, submit a full proposal (without a literature review) and one typed original of Form G to the IRB.
  • If the research qualifies for an expedited review, submit a full proposal (including Forms A-F) to the IRB by email.
  • If the research requires a full board review, submit a full proposal (including Forms A-F) to the IRB by email.
  • If you have questions about which category applies to your project, please contact the IRB chair.

Step 1: Submit your applications using the DocuSign link associated with your academic school. If you are not affiliated with an academic school, email your proposal or activity to irb@westminstercollege.edu.

Step 2: Complete all IRB forms (forms A-G and appendices):

OR complete all forms separately:

Proposal Deadlines

The IRB Committee meets the second Monday of each month during fall and spring semesters. Proposals are due to the IRB Committee through DocuSign or email 2 weeks before the IRB Committee meeting. Proposals or activities during summer semester (June, July, August) will be handled on an individual basis rather than through the traditional committee format.

Proposal Deadline IRB Committee Meeting Date
Aug. 30, 2021 Sept. 13, 2021
Sept. 27, 2021 Oct. 11, 2021
Oct. 25, 2021 Nov. 8, 2021
Nov. 29, 2021 Dec. 13, 2021
Dec. 27, 2021 Jan. 10, 2022
Jan. 31, 2022 Feb. 14, 2022
Feb. 28, 2022 March 14, 2022
March 28, 2022 April 11, 2022
April 25, 2022 May 9, 2022

Anonymity vs. Confidentiality

In general, the higher the risk involved in the project, the more detailed the explanation, precautions, and informed consent must be. The nature and type of informed consent is determined by the level of risk. Accordingly, the following broad guidelines for types of risk may be of assistance in making a necessary determination.

Anonymity

Claiming that a project or data collection is anonymous means 2 things:

  1. The project does not collect any unique identifiers of individual subjects (e.g., name, address, email address, social security number, phone number).
  2. The project does not collect any identifiers that, combined, would allow an individual to be identified. For example, age alone is not a unique identifier, but the combination of demographics like age, gender, major, living/learning community participation, honors program participation, and number of semesters at Westminster College could allow a participant to be identified.

If data is in any way identifiable or can be connected to the participant (directly or indirectly, even if only by the researchers), the data collection process cannot make the claim of being anonymous.

Confidentiality

Claiming that information collected will be kept confidential means that only the investigator(s) or co-investigator(s) will ever be able to identify the responses of individual subjects. This means that data will never be reported in a way that allows an individual respondent's identity to be known or tied to their responses.

This clarification of terms does not mean that no unique identifiers should ever be collected. Rather, this clarification of terms is designed to provide a greater level of precision when communicating with research participants. It is important to understand the claims that you are making regarding their responses. In general, participants are at greater risk when their responses can be tied to their identity. Typically, it is best to collect only the data that is necessary to complete the research objective.

Learn more about confidentiality vs. anonymity:

Types of Risk

  • Physical Risk: Physical discomfort, pain, injury, illness or disease brought about by the methods and procedures of the research.
  • Psychological Risk: May be experienced during the research situation and/or later, as a result of participating. Includes anxiety, stress, fear, confusion, embarrassment, depression, guilt, shock, loss of self-esteem, altered behavior.
  • Social/Economic Risk: Alterations in relationships with others that are to the disadvantage of the subject, including embarrassment, loss of respect of others, labeling with negative consequences, or diminishing the subject's opportunities and status in relation to others. Economic risks include payment by subjects for procedures, loss of wages or income, and damage to employability.
  • Legal Risk: Risk of criminal prosecution or civil lawsuit when research methods reveal that the subject has or will engage in conduct for which the subject or others may be criminally or civilly liable.
  • Loss of Confidentiality: Confidentiality is presumed and must be maintained unless the investigator obtains the express permission of the subject to do otherwise. Risks include invasion of privacy, as well as the social, economic and legal risks outlined above.

Minimal Risk

Federal regulations define "minimal risk" as follows: "The probability and magnitude of harm or discomfort anticipated in the research are not greater in and of themselves than those ordinarily encountered in daily life or during the performance of routine physical or psychological examinations or tests." In broad terms, a project involves minimal risk if:

  1. The participant experiences no pain or physical danger;
  2. The participant experiences no emotional arousal or psychological stress beyond the levels normally to be expected in everyday life;
  3. The project neither induces nor attempts to induce long-term significant change in the participant's behaviors (including attitudes toward self and others);
  4. The data would not embarrass or socially disadvantage the participant, were confidentiality to be violated; and
  5. If the investigator conceals information about the specific purpose of the project, there is no reason to believe the subject would choose not to participate if s/he had known that information initially.

Resources

Contact Information

Questions should be directed to current chair of the IRB.