Any scientific research being conducted by a University of Massachusetts, Amherst affiliate that involves interacting or intervening with human subjects/participants must undergo a review by the Institutional Review Board (IRB). The IRB is tasked with ensuring that research plans are in compliance with all laws and regulations, and that the risks to subjects are properly balanced against potential scientific gains. This is in accordance with federal law, and ALL research with human subjects, regardless of location or category of review, is subject to IRB review. A more detailed discussion, as well as IRB contact information, is available here.
The only exception to review is minimal-risk undergraduate research. Minimal-risk studies are those that are no more likely to cause harm or discomfort than is a subject’s daily routine. Full details of minimal-risk research can be found here.
Unfunded faculty and graduate student research and undergraduate Honors theses are reviewed by a Local Review Board (LRB), previously known as the Departmental Human Subjects Review Committee. Not all departments have an LRB; for a list of LRBs and contact information please see this website.
Faculty and graduate student research that is funded and/or classified as high risk must be reviewed by an IRB. There are three different levels of review: expedited, exempt, and full board. Details of these levels of review can be found here.
Once the level of review has been determined, a research protocol is submitted online via the e-protocol application.
Please note that IRB review can take several weeks; be sure to plan your research timeline accordingly.
More details about the submission and filing process can be found here.
Consent forms are often required, depending on the research. Templates can be found here.
Before submitting an IRB application, all researchers must also complete an ethics education online training course via CITI. If the research is grant-funded, certification of completion of CITI training must also be attached to the protocol application. CITI courses are free and usually take about two hours to complete. Note that there are different modules to choose from. More information can be found here.
The Office of Human Resource Protection (OHRP) educational videos also provide introductory information on research ethics, including topics such as informed consent and managing unexpected problems. Viewing of these videos is recommended, but not required, by the UMass IRB.