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Institutional Review Board (IRB): Institutional Policies

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Understanding Institutional Policies

Please review the following institutional policies before designing your study.

Student Enrollment

Student researchers must be enrolled in an active NU dissertation course during data collection. However, students do not have to be enrolled to use IRB services, write or obtain their IRB supplemental documents, write their IRB application, or submit their IRB application for review.

Recruitment through NU Resources

NU researchers may not use NU Commons to recruit participants for their research.  If you obtain NU Site Permission, then you can request access to resources, but these are not guaranteed.

Clinical Research or FDA Oversight

The NU IRB cannot review or approve studies that involve clinical research or require any type of FDA review or oversight.

The researcher will need to redesign their study or find an independent IRB outside of NU that has AAHRP accreditation and is willing to review their application at the researcher's expense. Researchers should understand that independent IRBs can be costly, and their approval is not guaranteed.

Research in Countries Outside the United States

The NU IRB can only support research in countries that are listed in the International Compilation of Human Research Standards.

If the researcher and/or the potential participants will be on-the-ground in a country that is not listed in the International Compilation of Human Research Standards, the NU IRB cannot review or approve the study. The researcher will need to redesign their study or find an independent IRB outside of NU that has AAHRP accreditation and is willing to review their application at the researcher's expense. Researchers should understand that independent IRBs can be costly, and their approval is not guaranteed.

Hiring of Third-Party Companies

NU researchers cannot pay or retain third-party companies (Qualtrics, SurveyMonkey, MTurk, Prolific, etc.) to recruit participants and/or distribute data instruments if any of the following are true (even if the company states they can meet the researcher's request):

  • The data instrument includes sensitive or triggering questions (such as asking about suicide, experiences with abuse or violence, etc.).
  • The researcher does not have the correct permissions or meet the necessary qualifications to distribute the data instrument.
  • The participants are minors (age 17 or under), prisoners, or another vulnerable group. Researchers may not use third-party companies to circumnavigate existing legal/site protections.

If a researcher wants to pay a third-party company to recruit participants or distribute instruments, the IRB must first review the data instrument and intended participant population. The IRB may determine that a researcher cannot pay or retain a third-party company for their proposed study.

Student Research Outside of Program Requirements

Students who are conducting research studies outside of their program requirements must have a faculty mentor or faculty chair who will be the Principal Investigator (PI), complete and submit the IRB application, and be responsible for oversight of the study. The PI may add the student researcher as a collaborator.

If a student is engaged in more than one research project, an additional document must be submitted with the IRB application that contains the following information:

  • Student’s name
  • Title for each study
  • Faculty mentor/chair for each study
  • Signature from each faculty mentor/chair that acknowledges every study where the student is engaged

This document must be uploaded to the “Additional Documents” section within the IRB application. There must be full transparency for all faculty to make informed decisions. Students must also follow any policies from their schools regarding student research.

Inclusivity in Research

The role of the IRB is to protect the rights and welfare of human participants as per the Belmont Report. This protection refers not only to reducing coercion and physical/mental risk but also ensuring inclusive data collection plans for participants and an equitable application process for researchers.

The IRB values all differences, including age, country of origin, disability, impairment, ethnicity, gender identity, marital status, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, or veteran status.


In inclusive data collection, marginalized groups have an opportunity to participate in research; study materials and research activities are accessible to participants of various abilities, disabilities, or impairments; and the data collection plan is not offensive, harmful, or burdensome to marginalized groups.

The NU IRB will consider the following when reviewing all applications:

  • Study Focus and Impact. When an application is submitted to the IRB, the NU IRB will consider if the study will include or exclude participants based on their identity; if the study will focus on a specific identity; or if the study results may negatively impact a marginalized group. In these situations, the IRB application will be reviewed by at least one IRB member or outside consultant of a similar background, identity, or appropriate research background.
  • Eligibility for Research. Researchers may not use eligibility criteria to exclude people of a certain identity from participating in their research due to the researcher's personal or religious beliefs; social, racial, sexual or cultural biases; feelings of discomfort; lack of knowledge; or an unwillingness to include people of a certain identity in their results. If a researcher wishes to exclude participants from their research based on identity, the researcher will need to justify their rationale according to the principles of the Belmont Report, their research objectives, and their approved dissertation proposal (if applicable). The NU IRB will decide whether the researcher's rationale is adequate and appropriate.
  • Inclusive Language. All participant-facing materials must use inclusive language that is not discriminatory, offensive, or harmful to marginalized groups. Participant-facing materials include eligibility criteria, recruitment materials, consent letters, and data collection instruments.
  • Readability. All participant-facing materials must use clear, plain language at an appropriate readability level for the intended participants. Consent letters in online surveys and questionnaires must be clearly formatted to be read online. Participant-facing materials must also be available in a language in which the participants are fluent. If the researcher and participants are not fluent in the same language, the NU IRB may require the presence of a translator.
  • Accessibility and Disability. Study materials and data collection plans must allow people with disabilities or impairments to participate, even if the study is not focused on disability or impairment. The NU IRB will require researchers to maintain the accessible formatting of the consent letter template and provide image descriptions for any recruitment graphics that are distributed online. The NU IRB also encourages researchers to provide options for their research activities, such as letting participants complete interviews online, over the phone, or over email. If a participant requests an accommodation to participate in the study (such as meeting in a different location or over a different platform), researchers may arrange these accommodations without submitting a modification application to the IRB.

The NU IRB can recommend or require changes to data collection plans that it deems to be not inclusive.


The NU IRB acknowledges its responsibility to ensure that the IRB process is inclusive to all NU faculty, staff, and students who wish to conduct research.

  • IRB Membership. The IRB includes members with varying identities, backgrounds, specialties, and schools within the university. The IRB may also invite external members or consultants to review studies that are outside of the current board's expertise.
  • IRB Application. The IRB will work to make its online application straightforward and user-friendly, to the extent allowed by the platform. Researchers who cannot use the submission platform may request an alternate method of submitting an IRB application. 
  • Services and Support. The IRB provides weekly synchronous and asynchronous services to assist researchers with the IRB application process. The IRB can also arrange one-on-one assistance for researchers who need additional support.