IRB Definitions

Research - a systematic investigation, including research development, testing, and evaluation, designed to develop or contribute to generalizable knowledge. Activities that meet this definition constitute research for purposes of this policy, whether or not they are conducted or supported under a program that is considered research for other purposes. For example, some demonstration and service programs may include research activities. For purposes of this part, the following activities are deemed not to be research:


  1. Scholarly and journalistic activities (e.g., oral history, journalism, biography, literary criticism, legal research, and historical scholarship), including the collection and use of information that focus directly on the specific individuals about whom the information is collected. However, if collecting data from multiple oral histories and the research is generalizing data to a group, it may be considered research. 


  1. Public health surveillance activities (including the collection and testing of information or biospecimens), conducted, supported, requested, ordered, required, or authorized by a public health authority. Such activities are limited to those necessary to allow a public health authority to identify, monitor, assess, or investigate potential public health signals, onsets of disease outbreaks, or conditions of public health importance (including trends, signals, risk factors, patterns in diseases, or increases in injuries from using consumer products). Such activities include those associated with providing timely situational awareness and priority setting during the course of an event or crisis that threatens public health (including natural or man-made disasters).


  1. Collection and analysis of information, biospecimens, or records by or for a criminal justice agency for activities authorized by law or court order solely for criminal justice or criminal investigative purposes.


  1. Authorized operational activities (as determined by each agency) in support of intelligence, homeland security, defense, or other national security missions.


Human Subject - a living individual about whom an investigator (whether professional or student) conducting research:


  • Obtains information or biospecimens through intervention or interaction with the individual and uses, studies, or analyzes the information or biospecimens; or


  • Obtains, uses, studies, analyzes, or generates identifiable private information or identifiable biospecimens.


Intervention includes both physical procedures by which information or biospecimens are gathered (e.g., venipuncture) and manipulations of the subject or the subject's environment that are performed for research purposes.


Interaction includes communication or interpersonal contact between investigator and subject.


Private information includes information about behavior that occurs in a context in which an individual can reasonably expect that no observation or recording is taking place. The individuals can reasonably expect that the information that has been provided for specific purposes will not be made public (e.g., a medical record).


Identifiable private information is private information for which the identity of the subject is or may readily be ascertained by the investigator or associated with the information.


Identifiable biospecimen is a biospecimen for which the identity of the subject is or may readily be ascertained by the investigator or associated with the biospecimen.


Institutional Review Board (IRB) - generic term used to designate the local institutional review committee, which is required to review research involving human subjects. At local institutions, these committees are given various names, such as committee on human subjects or the human investigations committee.


IRB Approval - the determination of the IRB that the research has been reviewed and may be conducted at an institution within the constraints set forth by the IRB and by other institutional and federal requirements.


Certification - the official notification by the institution to the supporting Federal department or agency component, in accordance with the requirements of this policy, that a research project or activity involving human subjects has been reviewed and approved by an IRB in accordance with an approved assurance.


Clinical Trial - a research study in which one or more human subjects are prospectively assigned to one or more interventions (which may include placebo or other control) to evaluate the effects of the interventions on biomedical or behavioral health-related outcomes.


Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) - a compendium of rules issued by federal agencies.


Legally Authorized Representative - an individual or judicial or other body authorized under applicable law to consent on behalf of a prospective subject to the subject's participation in the procedure(s) involved in the research. If there is no applicable law addressing this issue, legally authorized representative means an individual recognized by institutional policy as acceptable for providing consent in the nonresearch context on behalf of the prospective subject to the subject's participation in the procedure(s) involved in the research.


Minimal Risk - 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.


Public Health Authority - an agency or authority of the United States, a state, a territory, a political subdivision of a state or territory, an Indian tribe, a foreign government, or a person or entity acting under a grant of authority from or contract with such public agency, including the employees or agents of such public agency or its contractors or persons or entities to whom it has granted authority, that is responsible for public health matters as part of its official mandate.


Competence - a legal term, used to denote capacity to act on one's own behalf, the ability to understand the information presented to appreciate the consequences of acting (or not acting) on that information, and to make a choice.


Confidentiality - pertains to the treatment of information that an individual has disclosed in a relationship of trust with the expectation that it will not be divulged to others in ways that are inconsistent with the understanding of the original disclosure without permission.


Informed Consent - a person's voluntary agreement, based upon adequate knowledge and understanding of relevant information, to participate in research or to undergo a diagnostic, therapeutic, or preventive procedure.


Principal Investigator (Investigator) - the scientist or scholar with primary responsibility for the design and conduct of a research project.


Privacy - control over the extent, timing, and circumstances of sharing oneself (physically, behaviorally, or intellectually) with others.


Written, or In Writing - refers to writing on a tangible medium (e.g., paper) or in an electronic format.