Overview of the Review Process for Human Subjects Research
All research involving human participants at UNLV undergoes a rigorous review process before researchers are allowed to start their work.
Typically this review includes the following steps:
- The researcher and all team members complete extensive training on ethical issues surrounding research that involves humans. This training includes tests of comprehension that must be passed.
- The researcher completes a detailed protocol form describing the research in explicit detail. This protocol form is submitted to the Office of Research Integrity – Human Subjects.
- The Office of Research Integrity – Human Subjects initially reviews the protocol and may send the protocol back to the investigator with clarification questions. Once these questions are answered, the protocol proceeds on to review.
- Under the review process a protocol is determined to be exempt, expedited, or require full board review. All three processes differ slightly, but in each process the entire protocol receives a substantive review by qualified professionals ensuring that the benefits outweigh risks and that human subjects are protected.
- After substantive review the protocol typically is returned to the researcher to answer further questions and provide further points of clarification. Once this occurs, the protocol is either approved or disapproved.
All UNLV faculty, staff, and students conducting research involving human subjects are required to proceed through this process and to receive approval prior to initiating their research.
Students as Research Subjects
Student subjects are an integral part of certain research studies such as research on teaching methods and comparisons of curricula. Any subject’s participation in research must be voluntary and based upon full and accurate information. The relationship of instructor and student is inherently of unequal power. No matter how well intentioned the instructor is, students may feel compelled to participate and believe that failure to do so will negatively affect their grades and the attitude of the instructor (and perhaps other students) toward them.
In pursuing research activities in which students are subjects, researchers must thoughtfully develop protocols to balance the interests of subject protection and research goals. The following items should be considered when using students as research subjects:
- Adult students (18 and older) should generally be the participants. If underage students are sought, a parent permission and child assent form must also be included in the protocol and approved by the IRB.
- Students should be consented and give permission for access to any FERPA protected information.
- When course credit/extra credit is offered as an incentive for participation, other options for receiving credit must also be offered.
- When research activities are independent to course activities, investigators should avoid data collection during normal class hours and enlist an outside individual to interact with subjects (including consent and collection of data).
- Subject recruiting should be accomplished in a non-coercive manner, such as general announcements.
- Extra care should be given to confidentiality since all subjects may be known to the investigator and to all other subjects.
Research subject pools may address many of the above concerns since students can volunteer to participate in any study within the pool. Investigators should keep in mind that an alternative to research participation must still be offered so that students are not forced to be research subjects.