Institutional Review Board

Cecil College aspires to following the values of excellence, integrity, innovation, and collaboration.

About the Institutional Review Board (IRB)

Broadly, the IRB upholds the ethical guidelines surrounding research, which encourage integrity around projects conducted on Cecil College’s campus. Additionally, awareness of research ethics promotes academic excellence within the designated field, fosters collaboration between investigators within the institution, and encourages innovation. The inclusion of an IRB on campus also educates students on proper research ethics, which will aid them as they progress in their academic careers. For an explanation of key terms used by the IRB, please refer to the glossary.

What is an IRB?

The Cecil College IRB reviews proposed research projects and other activities that involve the use of human subjects to assure that human subjects involved in research are protected and that research conducted meets state and federal regulations. The purpose of the IRB is not to evaluate the merit of research, but instead to ensure:

  • that the rights and welfare of human subjects are protected;
  • that the risks involved in the study are considered, minimized and weighed against the benefit of the research;
  • that all human subjects engaged in research activities have volunteered and have undergone informed consent;
  • and that all research is conducted in compliance with ethical standards.

For additional information on the importance of the IRB in human subjects research, please see these training videos from The Office of Human Research Protections:

Does My Project Need Review?

The IRB reviews all proposals for human subjects' research before the research is conducted to ensure that the research plan adequately protects human subjects.

The first question most people ask when they are gathering information or data is whether or not their project needs to be reviewed by the IRB.

The following steps provide information to help researchers determine if they need to apply for IRB approval and how to apply to the IRB if approval is necessary.

Step One (1): First, You Must Be Conducting Research

Research is defined as a systematic investigation, including but not limited to research development, testing, and evaluation designed to develop or contribute to generalizable knowledge.

Activities which meet this definition constitute research for purposes of this policy, whether or not they are conducted by or supported under a program which is considered research for other purposes. For example, some demonstration and service programs may include research activities.

Step Two (2): Second, You Must Be Using Human Subjects in Your Research

The Department of Health and Human Services defines human subject as a living individual about whom an investigator (whether professional or student) conducting research obtains data or gathers identifiable private information through intervention or interaction with the individual.

If your research does meet the two qualifications above please see the steps for submission.

Examples of Projects That Do Not Need IRB Approval

  • Animal Research
  • Most Humanities Research
  • Mandatory Reporting
    • Research that relies on summary statistics involved in mandatory reporting.
  • Classroom Data Gathering or Class Projects
    • Class projects that are designed solely with the objective of providing students with experience in using research methodology are not considered research and do not require IRB approval. In these cases, data cannot be used out outside of the classroom context and data must be destroyed upon completion of the project. Similarly, data gathered for STEM projects that are only being presented within the Cecil College community do not require approval. However, STEM posters presented outside of the Cecil College STEM night require completion of an Exempt Application Form (retrospective data use) prior to the presentation.
    • Most class projects or data gathering does not require IRB approval. The IRB does provide recommendations to faculty around these activities to address issues with consent, sensitive information, and confidentiality. Please see Faculty Data Gathering and Classroom Activities for more information.
    • At minimum, if the instructor has any doubt concerning the classification of classroom activities, he/she/they is encouraged to contact the IRB chair, or to submit an Exempt Application Form and accompanying documents to the IRB.
  • Outside IRB Approval
    • Research projects that have IRB approval from another institution do need to be documented, but do not require IRB review. Please see the Full Application Form.