Skip to Main Content Skip to Main Navigation
search this website
search this website

Lehman College Logo Click Here to go back to Homepage

Institutional Review Board (IRB)

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the IRB?

An IRB (Institutional Review Board for human participants) is a group of at least five individuals with varying backgrounds who promote, complete, and adequately review of research studies. An IRB conducts the initial and annual reviews of a research study.

What is a human participant?

A human participant is a living individual about whom a researcher obtains data through intervention or interaction (interviews) with the individual, or through identifiable private information (data with identifiers).

What is research?

Research is defined as a systematic investigation, including pilot research, testing and evaluation, designed to develop or contribute to generalized knowledge. Activities that meet this definition constitute research that needs to receive IRB approval before the research can begin.

How do I know if I should submit a research application to the IRB?

If an investigator’s (faculty and students) research project involves any human participants (including observation, interviews, surveys, and data collection), an IRB application must be submitted. (IRB approval cannot be given retroactively.)

What are the review categories of an IRB application?

There are three review categories depending on the potential risk to the participants. Full Review (high risk) needs full IRB review; Expedited Review (minimal risk) and Exempt Review (low risk).

What is exempt research?

Exempt does not mean exempt from IRB review. The IRB, rather than the researcher, determines when research is exempt. Researchers proposing exempt research should submit an IRB application requesting exempt review. Examples of exempt research include educational tests, surveys, or interviews without individual identification or the use of existing data, documents, or other records without individual identifiers.

What is the difference between anonymity and confidentiality with research subjects?

Anonymity means the researcher has no record of the identity of the participants. For example, having participants mail back questionnaires or hand them back in a group, without names or other unique identifiers. Or working with data where all the identifiers have been removed. 

Confidentiality means the researcher knows the identity of the participants but will keep the participants’ identity and all identifying characteristics confidential.