The IRB process is required for all members of the Marlboro College community who are conducting scholarly research with human or animal subjects, either on or off campus.
Note: If you are an outside researcher wishing to use Marlboro students, staff, or faculty in your research, you also need to submit your project to the Marlboro IRB for approval before beginning your research.
What is research?
The Marlboro College IRB defines “research” as a systematic investigation designed to develop or contribute to generalizable knowledge. This definition includes research development, testing, or evaluation.
What is a human subject?
A human subject is defined as a living individual about whom an investigator, conducting research, obtains
- data through intervention or interaction with the individual, or
- identifiable private information.
A Note on Human Subjects: Human subjects are considered living people with whom investigators interact in a way that is not part of the people’s normal job. If, for example, you are interviewing someone to collect information that it is their job to know and to give out, (e.g., an interview with somebody in IT about software and technology), they are not considered human subjects but rather conduits of information. You do not need to go through the IRB process in this case.
If you are a member of the Marlboro College community and intend to conduct research that involves human or animal subjects, you must have your research plans reviewed and approved by the IRB prior to the initiation of your project. Additionally, all researchers not affiliated with Marlboro College who are conducting primary research with human subjects on campus must also apply to the Marlboro College IRB for approval before undertaking the research.
Examples of projects that need to go through research review include:
- Survey research asking residents of Brattleboro about their housing
- Ethnographic fieldwork in British Columbia
- Interview research asking veterinarians to discuss their feelings and practices around euthanasia
Who does not need to go through the research review process?
If you are not conducting research as defined above, you do not need to go through the research review process. Examples of projects that do not need to go through the process include:
- Interviews that are not part of a systematic research study, and that will not be used to generalize knowledge (i.e. talking to the owner of a pastry shop about how she got into the industry)
- Oral history projects that are strictly information gathering and not part of a research project
Projects that are conducted solely to teach students research techniques or methodologies are classified as instructional and not research – they would not need IRB review, if the following conditions are satisfied:
- The project involves minimal risk to the subjects (i.e. the anticipated risks are akin to the risks ordinarily encountered in daily life)
- The project does not involve sensitive topics or confidential information that could place a participant at risk if disclosed.
- The project does not involve people from vulnerable populations as participants.
- The project must involve voluntary participation of individuals without any coercion or pressure being placed upon them to participate. Though not required, we recommend instructors and students consider providing a consent document to participants which fully informs them of the research they’ll be participating in.
- The results of the project will never be distributed outside the classroom and/or institutional setting, or used for publication. Results may be presented to instructors or peers for educational purposes as part of a class assignment.
Class projects that involve collecting empirical data to test theories or examine theories in action should receive IRB review, with the exception of anonymous surveys with minimal risk.
Final Considerations for Classroom Activities:
- All research with children under the age of 18 must be reviewed by the IRB. Children are considered a vulnerable research population. They are less able to give fully-informed consent with respect to the research involved. Safeguard procedures and considerations are, therefore, required by the Federal regulations for the review of research involving children. In almost all cases, written consent from a parent or legal guardian must be obtained if the research involves children under the age of 18.
- Even in projects not subject to review, the instructor/faculty member is responsible for upholding the ethical guidelines for research in their field.
- It is the responsibility of the supervising instructor/faculty member to determine whether projects are subject to review. It is always best to seek consultation from the IRB if a question arises regarding human subjects, research and classroom activities.
For assistance in deciding whether your project needs to go through the Institutional Review Board, you can email the Assistant Dean for Academic Records and Institutional Research for help deciding whether your project needs review.