Institutional Review Board

IRB Role and Responsibilities

The Santa Fe Community College (SFCC) Institutional Review Board (IRB) exists to protect the rights and welfare of all human research participants recruited to participate in research activities conducted under the auspices of SFCC. The IRB reviews and monitors any research involving human subjects.  Institutions or individuals associated with an institution accepting research funding from the federal government must have an IRB review even if a given research project itself does not involve federal funds.  The Office for Human Research Protections (OHRP), under the auspices of the National Institutes of Health, sets the guidelines and regulations governing human subjects research and IRBs.

The role of the Institutional Review Board does not include evaluating the soundness of the proposed research study, the merits of the research design, the potential contribution of the research to the scholarly literature, nor the impact of the research on college resources or reputation. Rather, the IRB is charged with evaluating each project’s compliance with ethical standards in regard to issues such as informed consent, confidentiality, and any risk to the participants.

The SFCC IRB operates under the principles of The Belmont Report, a directive created in 1974 by the National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research.   The report explains the three central principals used to evaluate the ethics of specific research proposals:

Respect for Persons requires that subjects participate in research voluntarily, that they are thoroughly informed about the research, and that their privacy and confidentiality are protected.

Beneficence requires that the risks of research are justified by potential benefits to the individual or society and that those risks are minimized.

Justice requires the equitable distribution of risks and benefits among those who may benefit from the research, meaning that one subset of a population should not take on all the burden of risk and reap all of the rewards; risks and rewards should be applicable and available to all subsets of a community.

The entire Belmont Report can be found here 

If you are interested in pursuing a research project on the SFCC campus or with a member of the SFCC community, your research needs to be reviewed by the IRB.  The IRB application is available here:  SFCC IRB Application and may be submitted electronically.
In some cases, a research project qualifies for review by less than the entire IRB, possibly resulting in a faster decision.  Expedited review is allowed if the research presents no more than minimal risk to human subjects, and involves only procedures listed in one or more of seven categories specified by the federal Office of Human Research Protection.

A condensed version of the nine categories appears below:

  • Research conducted in established or accepted educational settings using standard educational practices, such as comparison among instructional techniques, curricula, or management methods

  • Research involving the use of educational tests (cognitive, diagnostic, aptitude, achievement), if information taken from these sources is recorded in such a manner that makes identification of the subjects impossible.

  • Research involving the collection or study of existing data, documents, records, pathological specimens, or diagnostic specimens, if these sources are routinely available to the investigator, and are recorded by the investigator in such a manner that makes identification of the subjects impossible.

  • Research involving survey or interview procedures when the respondents are elected or appointed public officials or candidates for public offices.

  • Research involving the observation (including observation by participants) of public behavior in places where there is no recognized expectation of privacy.

  • Research involving survey or interview procedures that do not produce psychological stress, the subjects are legally competent, and the investigator identifies him or herself and states that he or she is conducting a research survey or interview.

  • If your proposed research falls into one of these categories, it may qualify for an expedited review by fewer board members.  Please be sure to indicate on your application if that is the case.


If your research may fall into one of the categories, please read the federal government’s comprehensive definition of each category at the following site:  https://www.hhs.gov/ohrp/regulations-and-policy/guidance/categories-of-research-expedited-review-procedure-1998/index.html
All investigators involved in a research project at SFCC must undergo training in Protecting Human Research Participants, sponsored by the National Institutions of Health.

Protecting Human Research Participants online training consists of seven modules; each addressing the principles used to define ethical research using humans and the regulations, policies, and guidance that describe the implementation of those principles. Four of these modules are followed by a quiz.

The entire course will take approximately three hours to complete.

Follow this link to register for the online course:  http://phrp.nihtraining.com/users/login.php
When you have completed the course, attach the completion certificate to your application package.