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Purpose of the Institutional Review Board (IRB)

Calvin College affirms the importance of research involving human subjects. Additionally, the college affirms that human research subjects should be treated with profound dignity and respect befitting their creation in the image of God. To protect these values, the College provides for an Institutional Review Board (IRB).

The IRB shall review all research involving human subjects, performed under College auspices, for compliance with federal government principles and with ethical standards. "Research" means a systematic investigation designed to develop or contribute to generalizable knowledge. Research projects that involve the use of humans as subjects should be approved by Calvin's IRB.

Before starting a research project, individuals must complete and submit a research proposal form for IRB review and approval. Protocols describe the research plan, explain the provisions to protect participants, and outline what steps will be taken to comply with federally-mandated legal and ethical guidelines. Each question in the protocol should be answered using non-technical language so that IRB members will have ample information to understand the proposed research project.

Some types of research are approved as exempt from further review, such as interviews with candidates for political office, or implementing the use of new teaching techniques. Other types of research are given expedited review. Proposals that do not fit the criteria for exempt or expedited approval are brought to the full IRB for consideration and approval. Most students conducting research for course projects are not required to complete the IRB process. Rather, their faculty instructor should briefly describe to the IRB the nature and scope of the research project(s) and their compliance with Calvin IRB principles. The faculty member is responsible for encouraging and enforcing their students' ethical behavior in conducting research.

The role of the IRB committee, broadly defined, is to ensure the safety and ethical treatment of humans involved in research activities conducted by Calvin College faculty and students. Whereas Calvin's IRB believes it is charged with facilitating and enabling responsible research on humans in pursuit of our academic goals, it also feels that a primary role of the IRB is to ensure the just and ethical treatment of human subjects who are competently informed as to their role, the risks attendant to their participation, and their rights as participants.

The IRB is composed of people with professional expertise in various areas of natural science, social science, ethics, and research methodology. In addition, the committee always has at least one member chosen from the Grand Rapids community who has no formal ties with Calvin College. A list of current IRB members and the IRB's Mandate are available here.

Advice and decisions from the IRB will be forthcoming in a prompt manner, in keeping with its record. The review process is meant to encourage critical thinking and dialogue about important issues in the practice of research, not to burden Calvin faculty or students with a cumbersome process and bureaucracy. Thus the utmost attention is paid to fostering timely conversation between the Calvin IRB and the Calvin researcher, and delivering a prompt decision.