Preparing to be a human subjects researcher

At UVA, we value highly the contributions that human subjects make to research and it is important that UVA researcher continue to act in good faith with their human subject participants. Preparing to be a human subjects researcher is more than just writing a protocol for our board to review (though that is an important component as well). As you prepare to work with human subject participants, it’s important that you understand what is a human subjects research study; even though you may be gathering information from people, your project either may not rise to the level of “research” or your interaction with individuals may not qualify them as “human subject participants.” In addition, there are two IRBs at UVA; while we work in concert with each other, our submission processes are separate so before you start filling out the wrong form, make sure you’ve landed at the right IRB.

If you are a graduate or undergraduate student, we recommend that you consider going through any review process required by your department, such review by thesis and dissertation committees. Some studies that involve specific populations such as UVA medical students may require additional review as well. The Board wants to see projects that are in their final stage with all changes from other committees already implemented. In addition, you will be required to have a UVA faculty sponsor’s signature in order to submit, which verifies that your faculty sponsor approves of the materials you submitted. For more information, please see Student Researchers.  

Ready to move on? Make sure that you understand our review processes and some of the vocabulary that you will encounter with your review. For many studies, the difference between an expedited review and a full board review is the manner in which data are collected, and making a few modifications to your data collection processes can save you time and offer additional protection to your participants.

Take a moment to educate yourself regarding some of the more nuanced issues possibly related to your study in the Researcher's Guide. We regularly offer in-person education sessions and if you have specific questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to contact our office directly so that we can help you.  

Finally, before you can submit a protocol for IRB approval, you and everyone else listed on the protocol need human subjects research training which we provide through CITI. When you submit the protocol, you will sign the “Investigator Agreement” which describes responsibilities as a human subjects researcher; following the above recommendations will prepare you for this responsibility but it is important that you continue to maintain your protocol and conduct the study as it is described.