The Importance of Institutional Review Boards in Research

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  • 0:05 Institutional Review Board
  • 0:58 Process of IRB
  • 3:41 Importance
  • 4:25 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Devin Kowalczyk

Devin has taught psychology and has a master's degree in clinical forensic psychology. He is working on his PhD.

If you think a researcher just runs an experiment, then you didn't know they would run the risk of losing both their position as a researcher and possibly their freedom. The importance of the Institutional Review Boards keeps them safe.

Institutional Review Board

If you talk to a doctoral student conducting research, ask them about IRB, a shorthand reference for the Institutional Review Board. If you don't know anyone like that, I can tell you that they will get wide and wild eyed and begin to mumble things that might be an ancient curse of some kind. The Institutional Review Board is tasked with reviewing accurate information about research proposals to ensure they protect human and animal rights and that they fall in line with federal, state, local, and ethical guidelines. IRB typically consists of three to five professionals in an institution, although it would not be unheard of to have more, who review research proposals of the institution. You can think of it like a job interview board and you as the applicant. Sometimes your application is enough to get you a job, while other times you might have to come in.

Process of IRB

Remember that crazy graduate student foaming at the mouth when you mentioned IRB? The reason this happens is that IRB processes can be arduous and frustrating. We will walk you through it and then discuss why it is important for the process to be in place. Remember that this is a process that can be as short as two weeks or as long as six to eight months, and anytime it is returned to you, the process starts over.

The first step of IRB is having a detailed methods section, which is how a researcher plans to conduct their experiment. This includes details such as who the subjects will be, where you will be conducting the research, how the research will be conducted, what incentives will be provided, and how you might handle possible situations that might come up. This step is usually where most graduate students' frustrations come from, since they provide insufficient information, and the IRB has to request more info.

The second step is to submit your methods section to IRB. Usually the IRB has a standard protocol form that is filled out by the researcher using their research methods. The protocol helps speed up the review process, since a moderately sized graduate school might receive dozens of protocols from students and professors. Another big issue with graduate students is not filling out the protocol form correctly, since it can be anywhere from five to twenty pages of questions requiring detailed information. If anything is incorrect, it is returned.

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