Understanding IRB

IRB Guidance for Faculty Members Doing SLCE

If you are planning to publish on research conducted in the community on human subjects or planning to publish on student activities in your class, please read on. We have provided a few scenarios which we hope may help you in determining your course of action!

(If you already know you need to submit your research proposal for IRB review, please visit https://gtapps.gatech.edu/irb/ and consult SLS’s additional guidance.)

Working on Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR) and need IRB Approval? Check out our tips:

SCENARIO #1: A faculty member is going to conduct research in a community with the help of student interviewers. The faculty member wants to use those interviews in a scholarly article. What are the necessary steps vis a vis IRB?

The faculty does indeed need to submit the proposed project for IRB Review. The faculty member is going to conduct research on human subjects (with the help of students—since they are not the subjects, no separate application is entailed for their involvement).  Therefore, they need to submit the project for IRB review.  The reviewers will look carefully at specific elements of the proposed projects.  Depending on the research proposed, these elements might include: whether the participants will be asked for identifying material (like names and addresses); whether the participants could face reprisal for what they say; and whether the resulting interviews will be used by anyone other than the faculty member (for example use in a non-GT web app or other non-GT external public platform). Reviewers in the Office of Research Integrity will be happy to answer questions specific to your project and your application. Reach out to Melanie Clark (404.894.6942) or Kelly Winn (404.385.2175) for guidance.

The students will need to complete IRB training. Students who are doing human subjects research need to complete the basic CITI IRB training modules.  Because the training requires approximately 1.5 to 2 hours, we recommend faculty give the students course credit for completing it and require “proof” (ie a printout / screenshot of confirmed completion). Information for students and necessary links are available here: http://researchintegrity.gatech.edu/sites/default/files/documents/citi_gt_users.pdf


SCENARIO #2: A faculty member would like to use student work products from their course—such as essays, multimedia presentations, or other final projects—in a scholarly presentation and/or article.

This is not human subject research, but it does fall under FERPA. FERPA protects student privacy and prevents unethical and unauthorized use of students’ data.  If you’re going to use student work products in your own scholarship, you must request the permission of the student.  A sample form is available here.


SCENARIO #3: A faculty member wants to use Serve-Learn-Sustain's assessment data (e.g, surveys, concept maps, focus groups, etc.) in their research or paper.  Since SLS has IRB approval to use assessment data in publications, does the faculty member also need to submit an IRB protocol in order to use SLS data?

The faculty member does not have to submit a separate application for IRB review. Faculty will not need to submit a separate IRB protocol as long as the research or paper does not involve student records (i.e., transcripts, grades, etc.). Faculty will, however, need to obtain written student consent  (see sample student recruitment and sample consent letter) and contact the SLS staff.  Once we have determined that your research or data request fall into this category, we will submit to IRB an amendment to the approved SLS IRB protocol so that you can be added to it.


SCENARIO #4: A faculty member included a service component in their course and also required student reflections on that component—to see whether that unit should be included in future iterations of the course. After reading the reflections, the faculty member decided they want to publish an article / present in a scholarly forum about the project and the students’ experiences. What should the faculty member do?

The faculty member can submit an application after the fact. There are categories of review for research that is done on existing records collected for non-research purposes/ for “program improvement.”  The faculty member can submit an application and be approved even after the fact, so long as it is clear there was not an original intention to conduct research on the students and publish it.