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Institutional Review Board: Main Objectives

Institutional review boards, also called research ethics committees, are institutions which are created to examine cases of human participation in research and ensure their protection. The main aim of IRBs is to secure the physical and mental well-being of people participating in research (Grady, 2015).

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The ethical examination of research involves implying a protocol in order to determine whether the methods and materials are safe, people have volunteered to participate and are fully informed of the process. The main research spheres which require IRB’s approval are health, medicine, as well as different social sciences. Thus, research can involve, for instance, some clinical experiments for new drugs or behavioral studies.

Slutsman and Nieman (2018) state that “The IRB is required to determine the risks, discomforts, burdens, and benefits of participation” (p. 52). According to the amount of potential risk to the participants, there are three IRB review levels: exempt, expedited, and full board reviews (Lapid, Clarke, & Wright, 2019). The three types have different regulations on risk levels. Exempt reviews examine whether the data is collected “with permission for the participant; are benign, brief, harmless, painless, not physically invasive, and not likely to have a significant adverse lasting impact on the participants” (Lapid et al., 2019, p. 519).

Expedited reviews are held where there is no more than minimal risk involved. They are supposed to determine whether samples are taken in the right amounts, specimens are collected non-invasively, and all the recordings are used for the investigation aim. Full board reviews regulate research, which is conducted with potentially greater risk and should ensure the risk is minimized and the participants’ consent is collected. They also control that adequate provisions take place to guarantee safety, privacy, and confidentiality for participants.

Examples of IRB approval can be varied, as its goals are also numerous. Even if there is no potential damage to the health of participants, IRB still may need to be addressed. For instance, one of the aims and the determinations of IRB is to ensure the participants’ consent is taken. Therefore, if a researcher has access to some information, like clients’ personal data or students’ test scores, they must seek IRB approval to utilize this information in their research. More strict cases involve testing new medicines. When the outcome is unknown and potential risk is involved, IRBs are to closely examine the research aims, methods, and materials to guarantee maximum safety to the participants.


Grady, C. (2015). Institutional review boards. Chest, 148(5), 1148-1155. Web.

Lapid, M. I., Clarke, B. L., & Wright, R. S. (2019). Institutional review boards: What clinician researchers need to know. Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 94(3), 515–525. Web.

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Slutsman, J., & Nieman, L. (2018). Institutional review boards. In Gallin, J. I., Ognibene, F. P., & Johnson, L. L. (Eds.), Principles and practice of clinical research (pp. 47–61). London, England: Elsevier.

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