Data-based Program and Evaluation Projects

Faculty, staff, and students often carry out projects that involve collecting information from people, but these projects are studies of specific programs, policies, or outcomes, and are not designed to achieve scientific purposes. Staff in a department, for example, may conduct exit interviews with graduating seniors, to determine their perceptions of the quality of the department's instruction and steps to take to improve that instruction. In most cases, such projects are "excluded" from IRB review because they do not meet the federal standard of "research." However, that determination should be made by the IRB, so such projects require "limited review" by the IRB.

Before conducting such projects investigators should contact the IRB and provide relevant details so that the IRB can make a determination regarding the projects' status. The email should include a brief description of the project and address the following questions:

  1. What is the purpose of the project?
  2. Is the project a systematic investigation that will support conclusions that hold (generalize) across contexts and populations?
  3. Will the findings be made available to others through presentation or publication in science-focused outlets (e.g., presentation at scientific meetings or colloquia, publication in scientific journals, etc.)?
  4. Do you plan to use the data generated in a subsequent research project that is designed to yield generalizable knowledge? (Note: Retroactive approval of data collected for non-research purposes is rarely granted by the IRB).
  5. If the project is being conducted by an external organization (e.g., the National Center for the Study of Student Engagement, the President's Commission on Campus Climate), are faculty, students, and staff of the University engaged in the project.

If review indicates the project does not require approval by the IRB, then the project coordinator will be make certain those working on the project are informed that the project is excluded from IRB review and and should not be described as "approved" by the University's IRB. Additionally, it may not be included in any future research nor communicated to the scientific community (e.g., disseminated in a research forum).