What Happens After I Apply?
1. The application is processed by the IRB Committee.
Academic year: Applications are accepted on an ongoing basis and reviewed monthly. During the 2023-24 academic year, the specific review dates are: Sept 20, Oct 25, Nov 29, Jan 24, Feb 14, Mar 6, Apr 10, and May 22. Students on a study away program may work with the Center for Study Away to accommodate their schedule. Decisions are typically returned in 7-10 days. A researcher should not wait until the last minute to submit an application. If applications are incomplete or do not include appropriate supplementary materials, reviews may take longer. The IRB goes on hiatus during the winter break. If you plan to collect data during that time, submit your application by the November review date.
Summer: Applications are accepted on an ongoing basis and reviewed once a month. In 2023, the IRB summer review dates are Jun 27th, July 25th, and August 29th. If you are facing a deadline to begin data collection, you should alert the IRB chair. The IRB will try but cannot promise to accommodate your schedule.
When a student is an investigator, the application must be reviewed by a Research Advisor (e.g., academic advisor, independent-study supervisor, course instructor, etc.) before it can be processed by the IRB. Student applicants must include a signed Research Advisor Form affirming that the identified faculty or staff member agrees to supervise the study.
When an application is submitted, the IRB chair assigns the application to be reviewed by one or more IRB committee members. The reviewer reads the application and the supporting materials and then prepares an evaluation and recommendation, informed by federal regulations for the protection of human research subjects (45 CFR 46) and Macalester College policies.
The IRB reviewer may communicate with the applicant to request more information or revisions to the submitted materials. These revisions must be completed before the review can proceed. It is not uncommon for applicants to make several modifications to their original submission before it can be approved. This adds time to the review process.
Applications can be approved with one of four findings:
- Many applications are found to be “Exempt” from continuing IRB review because they either make use of existing records, involve standard educational/psychological tests, or for other reasons listed in the federal regulations. However, only the IRB – not the researcher – can determine whether a project is exempt.
- Some applications are ruled “Exempt with limited review.” This category is appropriate for projects in which the only risk to subjects comes from the possibility that sensitive, identifiable information may be made public. Such projects are reviewed only to ensure that sensitive, identifiable information is adequately secured.
- Most other applications can be dealt with on the basis of an “Expedited” review because the research poses no more than minimal risk to human subjects and because the research falls into one of several categories of relatively innocuous research listed in the federal regulations.
- An application involving procedures that entail more than minimal risk or that seek to recruit participants from vulnerable populations will require a Full Review. This can entail a delay of several weeks because all members of the IRB must convene to consider the application.
2. The IRB sends an email message to the applicant including an official document communicating the IRB’s decision.
The IRB will provide the principal investigator with a written response stating approval or disapproval and reasons for the decision. A record of the response will be kept by the IRB. Proposals that are not approved may be reworked and resubmitted. There is, however, no appeal of a decision of the Macalester College IRB.
3. Research may begin after approval is officially confirmed.
Once you receive an e-mail notification of approval from the IRB, you may begin your research. In some cases, approval may be contingent on additional stipulations to safeguard the rights and welfare of research participants.
4. Keep a copy of your approval letter.
Researchers may need to show a document of their project’s approval by an IRB. Unless otherwise noted, approval lasts for one year from the date listed on the letter. Researchers must submit a request for continuing review and renewal before the approval period ends if they wish to continue data collection or working with identifiable private information using approved protocols. Otherwise, the application process must be started anew.