University of Massachusetts Amherst

Department of Sociology



Institutional Review Board (IRB)

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 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.

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.

Unfunded faculty and graduate stduent research and undergraduate honors theses are reviewed by Sociology's Local Review Board (LRB). This board is comprised of Janice Irvine, Laurel Smith-Doerr, and Millie Thayer. In advance of the start of an unfunded research project that involves human subjects, researchers should complete the following two forms:

  • a research protocol: e-protocol.
  • consent forms (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. Certification of completion of CITI training must also be attached to the protocol application whether the research is funded or unfunded. 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.

Please submit your IRB forms to Wendy Wilde to start the review process. Your IRB forms should be sent electronically (as one document) to for distribution to the committee. If scanning the forms is not feasible, a hard copy will be accepted. Please be sure to obtain signatures on the last page of the e-protocol application. Local Review takes 1-2 weeks.

More details about the submission and filing process 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 these videos is recommended, but not required, by the UMass IRB.

IRB FAQs can be found here and here.


Department of Sociology • Thompson Hall • University of Massachusetts–Amherst, MA 01003