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What is an Institutional Review Board (IRB)?

The role of an IRB is to foster ethical treatment of human research participants. Before IRBs were instituted as a national standard, some researchers conducted studies that resulted in serious and unwelcomed consequences for the participants. For these researchers, the potential gained knowledge overshadowed the harm done to the participants. IRBs have since been instituted to make sure a balance exists between harm to subjects and potential gain.

Institutional Review Boards function in three ways:

  1. by educating the community about commonly accepted standards for the ethical treatment of volunteer research participants,
  2. by fostering discussion about how those general principles apply in particular cases and the balance between the risks to research participants and the long-term benefits of the research, and
  3. by reviewing ongoing research to ensure that it complies with commonly accepted practices and standards.

Intellectual activities that are governed by IRBs are only those which meet ALL three of the following criteria:

  1. Research that produces generalizable or universal knowledge;
  • Research that involves human participants;
  • Research involving human participants that is required to be reviewed under existing IRB procedures.
  • If you aren’t sure whether your research must be reviewed by the IRB, please check out the Frequently Asked Questions page.

    The IRB at Bard

    All research carried out by Bard College faculty, staff, and students for which people are research participants must be carried out in accordance with Bard College IRB policies. The IRB will not consider proposals for research that has already been conducted.

    Before data collection can begin on a project, the IRB must review and approve the methods and procedures that will be used. This includes proposals for:

    Deadlines for Submitting


    Each proposal must be read by the IRB Chair, be reviewed by at least one primary reviewer, and be discussed in a full committee meeting. This takes time! Please structure your proposal carefully, include all of the necessary materials, and describe the content of your methods in detail. Working closely with your faculty adviser and/or an IRB commitee member will facilitate the review process. Late submissions will be reviewed at the NEXT meeting date.

    Meeting and Decision Dates

    IRB Decisions

    Proposal Exempt: an “exempt” decision means your research does not meet the definition of human subjects research as defined by the federal government and thus does not need IRB review.

    Proposal Approved: an “approval” decision means you can begin conducting your research and collecting data that involves human subjects.

    Minor Revisions Required: a “minor revisions required” decision means that your materials are largely in order, but there are a few minor issues that need to be addressed before final approval can be given. A proposal that requires minor revisions can be reviewed, and a decision rendered, immediately upon resubmission. Resubmissions should be sent to and directly to the chair of the IRB.

    Major Revisions Required: a “major revisions required” decision means that the proposal requires substantive revisions before it can be approved. Often proposals receiving this decision are incomplete and missing important documents necessary for review. A resubmission that receives a second decision of “major revisions required” will be denied and you will have to begin the submission process anew. A proposal that requires major revisions must be reviewed at the next (or a future) IRB meeting. Resubmissions should be sent to .

    Proposal Denied: a “denial” decision means your proposal does not meet the federal standards required for research involving human subjects.

    Fall 2015 Deadlines

    Category: Insurance

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