If you are doing research that involves working with living human beings, you may need to get permission from the Institutional Review Board before you begin.
The Institutional Review Board (IRB) exists to project human subjects involved in research. The following research requires IRB approval before you start your research:
- Any original research with human subjects conducted by Middlebury faculty, staff, or students
- Human subject = a living person about whom a researcher obtains either personal data through intervention with the individual OR through private information.
Review the steps below to better understand the IRB process.
Research on human subjects—systematic collection of personal or private information from living human beings—can be done in virtually any discipline. Biological studies sometimes involve human subjects, while sociological, anthropological, and psychological studies often do. Increasingly, research in the humanities—like religion, language studies, and history—involves human subjects.
Much of the time, research that Middlebury students, faculty, or staff conduct is fairly benign, and the IRB will review it quickly. Sometimes, though, research entails enough risk, or confidentiality is so important, that the IRB must ensure that you include adequate protections. The IRB will evaluate your research plans to make sure that nothing you intend to do is unjustifiably dangerous to your participants and that their rights to participate (or not) are respected. Sometimes the IRB will recommend changes to your procedures to better protect your subjects, and the committee will approve your research only when adequate protections are in place.
If you have other questions, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Steps to Approval
Step 1: Complete ethics training
- Access the Social and Behavioral Research Course (see instructions).
- Valid for 2 years for students and 4 years for faculty/staff (note: NIH certificates also acceptable).
Step 2: Submit application
- Log in to Axiom Mentor, the IRB application creation, amendment, and tracking tool (with your Middlebury credentials). Be sure to check the Quick Start Guide, available on the first page, for more information and instructions about how to use the system.
Step 3: Review
- IRB staff categorizes proposals into Level I-II-III; IRB chair/staff corresponds with PI until proposal is complete.
- Minimal Risk: IRB staff and/or Chair reviews, usually within one to two weeks.
- Full Board: Full IRB meeting, monthly meetings with decisions ~1 week after the meeting.
- Revisions as necessary by email–do not submit a new application.
- Formal approval letter to PI follows when project is approved.
- Federal regulations governing human subjects research: The Common Rule
- Ethical principles: The Belmont Report