Institutional Review Board
The Smith College Institutional Review Board (IRB) upholds the principles of respect, beneficence and justice, with established guidelines to ensure that human research participants are treated with dignity, respect and with due regard for their welfare. We are committed to safeguarding and upholding the rights and welfare of all people who volunteer to participate in research.
News & Events
IRB Recommendations around In-person Interviews and Activities and Covid-19 Risks
Because of the continued risks posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Smith College IRB is altering its procedures for evaluating research involving contact between humans. All research involving in-person contact between researchers and participants (or just between participants) will require full board review until further notice. This means that the proposal will only be able to be considered at one of our monthly meetings. This will likely slow down the review process for protocols that would have been quickly approved before COVID-19. We therefore recommend the following:
- If at all possible, conduct interviews or other data collection remotely (e.g., over Zoom, telephone or other video platform). If the risk of COVID transmission is removed from the protocol then it may be possible (or likely) that the protocol will be given expedited or exempt review (which in many cases can occur within a week).
- If you feel you must do in person interviews or interact in person, please include your reasoning/justification for the human contact in the protocol, explaining why you must be in person with participants to achieve your research aims.
- If you are proposing research involving in-person contact, please directly state the risk of Covid-19 exposure as a “physical” risk in the protocol and on the consent form. Please also describe your mitigation strategies to manage the COVID risk (e.g., masking? distancing? disinfecting? testing? conducting in-person activities outdoors?). Please also state that you will modify your COVID mitigation plan based on changes in Smith College, local, federal, or CDC guidance. When and if you do so, we recommend acting immediately in response to this guidance to maintain participant safety and then as soon as possible file a change of protocol with the IRB telling us that you made a change in compliance with external guidance.
- Please include in the protocol and on the consent form the vaccination status of the researcher(s) interacting with participants (assuming you are vaccinated and boosted).
- If planning to do an in person focus group, or interview with more than one person (which the IRB discourages, as it places additional risks to Covid exposure), please consider the risks (e.g., COVID and confidentiality) vs. the benefits and provide details about further mitigation strategies. You will need to explain the benefits of having people together in your IRB proposal so that we can evaluate the merits as we deliberate on a decision about your proposal.
- If you plan to do in person activities internationally, plan to include data and information about the local Covid protocols and risks and provide a letter attesting to the appropriateness of your research protocols and your proposed Covid mitigation strategies from a local “expert” (e.g., someone with the authority to speak for the recommended local COVID conditions and safety protocols).
Mentor IRB Software
Smith College is using the Mentor IRB system for IRB protocol submission and management. Please refer to the Application Process page for more information about preparing and submitting a proposal through the system.
Protocol Submission for Full Board Review (studies with higher risks and/or which involve vulnerable populations)
It is always good to be in touch by email to let us know to expect research protocols that will likely need full IRB review. Generally, protocols requiring full board review need to be submitted at least a week before the full board meets. The IRB office is open to handle questions and expedited or exempt proposals that do not require full board consideration.
IRB summer meeting schedule:
- Thursday, June 2, 2022
- Friday, July 8, 2022
Submit Your Workshop Requests
The Smith College IRB is currently gauging interest in educational workshops for groups of faculty, staff or students who want to learn more about the IRB review process and ask questions related to their planned research involving human subjects. If you are interested in this type of workshop, please contact the IRB coordinator or Nnamdi Pole, IRB chair.
Principles of Ethical Research Involving Humans
Respect, Beneficence, Justice: Understanding the Purpose of the Review Process
“Ethical Principles and Guidelines for the Protection of Human Subjects of Research,” better known as “The Belmont Report,” was created by the former United States Department of Health, Education, and Welfare—now known as Health and Human Services (HHS)—and is an important historical document in the field of medical ethics. The report was created on April 18, 1979, and gets its name from the Belmont Conference Center, formerly a part of the Smithsonian Institution and located in Elkridge, Maryland, where the document was drafted.
“The Belmont Report” explains the unifying ethical principles that form the basis for the National Commission’s topic-specific reports and the regulations that incorporate its recommendations. The three fundamental ethical principles for all research involving human subjects are
- Respect for persons: protecting the autonomy of all people and treating them with courtesy and respect;
- Beneficence: maximizing good outcomes for humanity and research subject, while minimizing or avoiding risks or harm; and
- Justice: ensuring reasonable, nonexploitative, and well-considered procedures are administered fairly.
Those principles remain the basis for the HHS human subject protection regulations, and the Institutional Review Board is responsible for upholding them by reviewing all research involving human participants before it begins. Read the full Belmont Report.
Complaintant Protection Policy
The IRB is required to review allegations of misconduct and to take action to protect human subjects. Please contact the IRB Chair or file a Participant Complaint Form if you have a concern about a research project. Reviewing complaints and allegations of noncompliance is critical to the IRB's ability to protect human subjects. A climate free of fear of sanction is required to foster appropriate reports and ensure a fair review of allegations. Retaliation against good faith “whistleblowers” is illegal and will not be tolerated at this institution.Learn More About Compliance & Complaints File a Complaint Form
IRB Meeting Schedule
Please note that not all proposals need to be reviewed during these full board meetings. Please see information on the Application Process page and review procedures for details.
The IRB will meet monthly during the academic year. The IRB office remains open (remotely) to handle questions and expedited or exempt proposals that do not require full board consideration, as well. If you are planning to submit something for full board review (prior to our meetings), it would be helpful to let us know by email.
Please be aware that our full board meeting agendas sometimes fill up a month in advance, so it is best to submit your proposal well in advance of the deadline and/or be in contact with us prior to the meeting or submission..
- Nnamdi Pole, Psychology (2020–21 Committee Chair)
- Shannon Audley, Education and Child Study
- Katherine Clemans, Psychology
- Jay Garfield, Philosophy
- Leslie Jaffe, MD
- Hannah Karpman, School for Social Work
- Jenifer Urff, Community member
- Beth Ward, Community member