Dean of the Faculty

Institutional Review Board

The mission of the Southwestern University (SU) Institutional Review Board (IRB) is to evaluate SU faculty and staff research proposals to ensure that human participants are treated with respect and safety and that their rights are protected, following the federal guidelines set forth in the US Department of Health and Human Services’ “Code of Federal Regulations Title 45 Part 46: Protection of Human Subjects

The IRB Committee

Committee Members for 2017-2018 include

  • Abby Dings* (on Sabbatical fall 2017), Department of Modern Languages & Literature
  • Maha Zewail Foote (Co-Chair), Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
  • Katie Grooms, Department of Economics & Business
  • Maria Lowe (Co-Chair), Department of Sociology & Anthropology
  • Marilee Parsons, external community member
  • Carin Perilloux* (on leave fall 2017), Department of Psychology
  • Brenda Sendejo, Department of Sociology & Anthropology
  • Natasha Williams, Director of Institutional Research and Effectiveness


Who Must Submit Their Projects For IRB Approval?

With a few exceptions (see pdf below), anyone conducting academic or administrative research with human participants (including research where human tissues or cells will be collected or analyzed) must submit proposals to the IRB. For IRB purposes, research projects include not only standard faculty research but also class research projects, student-led independent studies and capstone research, and administrative research. Examples of research methodologies include (but are not limited to) experiments, surveys, questionnaires, interviews, participant/informant observations, interventions, and program evaluations.

Do I need to submit my proposed research plan to the IRB for review? (PDF)


Class Research Projects

Class research projects do NOT need to be submitted to the IRB if the research activity is designed for the purpose of learning research methods, if the research exposes participants to no greater than minimal risk, if the proposed participants do not include vulnerable populations (prisoners, pregnant women, people under 18 years of age, or other vulnerable groups), if the project does not involve sensitive information (such as sexual activity, drug use, illegal behaviors, etc.) AND if the results and data will NOT be disseminated in any way outside of the classroom. Please note that Capstone and Student Works Symposium presentations are considered to be outside of the classroom and therefore do not meet the criteria for class research projects. In order to protect the rights of participants and ensure ethical conduct by all researchers, faculty members who assign class research projects are expected to review students’ research plans prior to participant recruitment and data collection, as well as to provide ongoing supervision and guidance. All faculty members who assign class research projects are expected to comply with the ethics training requirement below, even if they do not need to submit a research proposal.


Ethics training requirement:

The IRB requires certification of ethics training for all Principal Investigator(s) prior to data collection, as well as for all IRB members. NIH has a free training program that meets its education requirements for grant recipients and provides important information for anyone involved in human research. It takes about 2-3 hours and can be accessed at  A certificate of completion (PDF or screenshot) for this NIH program or a similar certification program (e.g., CITI) dated within the past three years must be submitted to and kept on file. This requirement extends to all investigators (including student researchers) when the proposed research involves more than “minimal risk” to humans based on the judgment of the SU IRB.  “Minimal risk means the probability and magnitude of harm or discomfort anticipated in the research are not greater in and of themselves than those ordinarily encountered in daily life or during the performance of routine physical or psychological examinations or tests” (Code of Federal Regulations Title 45 Part 46.102).


Forms and information

Submission of research proposal form

The Principal Investigator (PI) should submit research proposals as a single attached file (Microsoft Word or Google Doc) to PIs must be Southwestern University faculty or staff members. Proposals should be submitted no later than two weeks before the proposed start date. Proposals must be officially submitted by a faculty or staff member as the Principal Investigator. For student projects, the faculty supervisor must read and approve the proposal prior to its submission.

Notification of decisions on proposals

The IRB will email the PI a letter describing the results of the review, including reasons for any requested modifications or for denying approval of the project. Researchers may not begin data collection until approval is received.

Extension of previously-approved research

If you have received approval for a class research project in the past, and you wish to repeat the project in subsequent semesters, please send an email to with the following information: proposal number, project title, and the new course number and title where the research will be conducted. If there are minor modifications, please describe. In most cases, we will be able to approve the extension without a new proposal form.


Regarding projects that have been approved by IRBs from other institutions, the following policies should be followed:

  • If any Southwestern faculty, staff or students intend to be involved as researchers on the project (i.e. participating in data analysis, study design, etc.), they can submit the irb materials and approval from the other institution to and the IRB chair(s) will determine if the materials are sufficient for Southwestern approval  or if a Southwestern IRB proposal is needed.

  • If any outside researchers would like to recruit members of the Southwestern community for a research project and no Southwestern faculty, staff or students are involved as researchers on the project (i.e. not participating in data analysis, study design, etc.), the researchers should submit their irb materials and approval from their home institution to and the IRB chair(s) will determine if recruitment is allowed or if further information or any modifications are needed. See below for policy focused on anonymous online surveys.

  • If members of the Southwestern community wish to distribute an invitation to participate in an anonymous online survey by an outside researcher, they should click on the invitation page of the survey. If the consent page includes a statement that indicates IRB approval from another institution, the SU members may forward the invitation to potential participants. If the consent page does not include a statement indicating IRB approval and the SU members are still interested in forwarding the invitation, they should request IRB approval documentation from the researcher, and upon receipt, they can distribute the invitation. If none is provided, the invitation cannot be distributed to Southwestern community members.


If you have questions about how to complete the form or are unsure about whether your project requires submission, please contact either of the chairs of the IRB: Dr. Maria Lowe, phone 512-863-1936, email and Dr. Maha Zewail Foote, phone 512-863-1626, email

Federal Regulations and Guidelines