The IRB is a group of five people who are responsible for reviewing proposals for research on human subjects. Guidelines for how the IRB should be selected, its responsibilities, and its operations are described in detail in the Written Procedures for the Hanover College IRB. What follows are some of the major features of the IRB based on those procedures.
- The full IRB will probably not review many proposals at Hanover. The Common Rule states that research that is minimal risk (a risk of harm or discomfort similar to what is encountered in daily life) and that fits into an approved category (such as anonymous surveys) is exempt from review, and researchers conducting this kind of research simply need to file a form with the chair of the IRB before beginning their research. The Common Rule also recognizes another set of minimal risk research as qualifying for expedited review, in which only a subset of the IRB (sometimes only a single member) need to review the proposal. Only research that does not fall into these two categories must be reviewed by the full IRB.
- Who is on the IRB? The IRB will consist of at least 5 members: two faculty from the sciences, one non-science faculty member, one student, and one community member who is not affiliated with the College or directly related to anyone affiliated with the College.
- How does the review process work? Researchers who plan to conduct research on human subjects will download a form on which they describe their procedure and complete a set of checklists that determine whether their research qualifies as exempt, expedited, or subject to full review. Proposals subject to full review go to the chair of the IRB, who will assign one IRB member to be the Primary Reviewer for that proposal. The Primary Reviewer will take responsibility for organizing the discussion of the proposal, but all members of the IRB will read the materials. The IRB will meet at the Hanover campus as soon as possible after receipt of the proposal, ideally within one week, and will evaluate the proposal on its potential risks and/or benefits to participants and its protection of the dignity and welfare of participants. At least 3 of the 5 IRB members must be present at this meeting, including at least one non-science member. Each member votes to either approve the proposal, ask the researcher to make changes and resubmit the proposal, or reject the proposal. The groups decision is determined by a simple majority. In the case of a tie, the group first attempts to resolve the decision through discussion, and failing that the official at Hanover College who supervises the IRB (the Dean of Academic Affairs) casts a tie-breaking vote.