Office of Research
Levels of Review and Criteria
Good research design dictates careful consideration of risks, protections, and benefits, even if detailed review by the IRB does not occur. Moreover, the research design should meet applicable research ethics standards of the investigator's professional association or society. In all cases, the standards of respect for persons, beneficence, and justice enumerated by the Ethical Principles and Guidelines for the Protection of Human Subjects of Research (Belmont Report) apply to research involving human subjects, whether reviewed or certified as exempt from review. All research involving human subjects conducted at or sponsored by this University will be obligated to these ethical principles or their equivalent.
A Certified Departmental Reviewer is charged with the task of determining the appropriate level of review for a research project.
EXEMPT from Review. To be classified as Exempt from Review, the project must involve minimal risk to the subject and must satisfy one or more of the following criteria:
- Research, conducted in established or commonly accepted educational settings, that specifically involves normal educational practices that are not likely to adversely impact students’ opportunity to learn required educational content or the assessment of educators who provide instruction. This includes most research on regular and special education instructional strategies, and research on the effectiveness of or the comparison among instructional techniques, curricula, or classroom management methods. [45 CFR 46.104(d)(1)]
- Research that only includes interactions involving educational tests (cognitive, diagnostic, aptitude, achievement), survey procedures, interview procedures, or observation of public behavior (including visual or auditory recording) if at least one of the following criteria is met: (i) The information obtained is recorded by the investigator in such a manner that the identity of the human subjects cannot readily be ascertained, directly or through identifiers linked to the subjects; or (ii) Any disclosure of the human subjects’ responses outside the research would not reasonably place the subjects at risk of criminal or civil liability or be damaging to the subjects’ financial standing, employability, educational advancement, or reputation. PLEASE NOTE: An exemption cannot be used when children are involved for research involving survey or interview procedures or observations of public behavior, except for research involving observation of public behavior when the investigator(s) do not participate in the activities being observed. [45 CFR 46.104(d)(2)]
- Research involving benign behavioral interventions in conjunction with the collection of information from an adult subject through verbal or written responses (including data entry) or audiovisual recording if the subject prospectively agrees to the intervention and information collection and at least one of the following criteria is met: (a) The information obtained is recorded by the investigator in such a manner that the identity of the human subjects cannot readily be ascertained, directly or through identifiers linked to the subjects or (b) Any disclosure of the human subjects’ responses outside the research would not reasonably place the subjects at risk of criminal or civil liability or be damaging to the subjects’ financial standing, employability, educational advancement, or reputation. For the purpose of this provision, benign behavioral interventions are brief in duration, harmless, painless, not physically invasive, not likely to have a significant adverse lasting impact on the subjects, and the investigator has no reason to think the subjects will find the interventions offensive or embarrassing. Provided all such criteria are met, examples of such benign behavioral interventions would include having the subjects play an online game, having them solve puzzles under various noise conditions, or having them decide how to allocate a nominal amount of received cash between themselves and someone else. PLEASE NOTE: If the research involves deceiving the subjects regarding the nature or purposes of the research, this exemption is not applicable unless the subject authorizes the deception through a prospective agreement to participate in research in circumstances in which the subject is informed that he or she will be unaware of or misled regarding the nature or purposes of the research. [45 CFR 46.104(d)(3)]
- Research for which consent is not required: Secondary research uses of identifiable private information or identifiable biospecimens, if at least one of the following criteria is met: (a) The identifiable private information or identifiable biospecimens are publicly available; (b) Information, which may include information about biospecimens, is recorded by the investigator in such a manner that the identity of the human subjects cannot readily be ascertained directly or through identifiers linked to the subjects, the investigator does not contact the subjects, and the investigator will not re-identify subjects; (c) The research involves only information collection and analysis involving the investigator’s use of identifiable health information when that use is regulated under 45 CFR parts 160 and 164, subparts A and E, for the purposes of ‘‘health care operations’’ or ‘‘research’’ as those terms are defined at 45 CFR 164.501 or for ‘‘public health activities and purposes’’ as described under 45 CFR 164.512(b); or (iv) The research is conducted by, or on behalf of, a Federal department or agency using government-generated or government-collected information obtained for non-research activities, if the research generates identifiable private information that is or will be maintained on information technology that is subject to and in compliance with section 208(b) of the E-Government Act of 2002, 44 U.S.C. 3501 note, if all of the identifiable private information collected, used, or generated as part of the activity will be maintained in systems of records subject to the Privacy Act of 1974, 5 U.S.C. 552a, and, if applicable, the information used in the research was collected subject to the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, 44 U.S.C. 3501 et seq. [45 CFR 46.104(d)(4)]
- Research and demonstration projects that are conducted or supported by a Federal department or agency, or otherwise subject to the approval of department or agency heads (or the approval of the heads of bureaus or other subordinate agencies that have been delegated authority to conduct the research and demonstration projects), and that are designed to study, evaluate, improve, or otherwise examine public benefit or service programs, including procedures for obtaining benefits or services under those programs, possible changes in or alternatives to those programs or procedures, or possible changes in methods or levels of payment for benefits or services under those programs. Such projects include, but are not limited to, internal studies by Federal employees, and studies under contracts or consulting arrangements, cooperative agreements, or grants. Exempt projects also include waivers of otherwise mandatory requirements using authorities such as sections 1115 and 1115A of the Social Security Act, as amended. Each Federal department or agency conducting or supporting the research and demonstration projects must establish, on a publicly accessible Federal Web site or in such other manner as the department or agency head may determine, a list of the research and demonstration projects that the Federal department or agency conducts or supports under this provision. The research or demonstration project must be published on this list prior to commencing the research involving human subjects. [45 CFR 46.104(d)(5)]
- Taste and food quality evaluation and consumer acceptance studies, (a) if wholesome
foods without additives are consumed, or (b) if a food is consumed that contains a
food ingredient at or below the level and for a use found to be safe, or agricultural
chemical or environmental contaminant at or below the level found to be safe, by the
Food and Drug Administration, or approved by the Environmental Protection Agency,
or the Food Safety and Inspection Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. [45
PLEASE NOTE: Exemption from IRB review does not mean an IRB application is unnecessary. Research that falls under one of the aforementioned exempt categories still requires review by a Departmental Reviewer. In accordance with OHRP’s recommendations, investigators do not have the authority to make an independent determination that a research project involving human subjects is exempt.
EXPEDITED Review. A project that does not qualify for Exemption from Review may be classified for Expedited
Review, if it meets one or more of the following criteria for Expedited Review established
by federal guidelines:
- Research activities that (1) present no more than minimal risk to human subjects, and (2) involve only procedures listed in one or more of the following categories, may be reviewed by the IRB through the expedited review procedure authorized by 45 CFR 46.110 and 21 CFR 56.110. The activities listed should not be deemed to be of minimal risk simply because they are included on this list. Inclusion on this list merely means that the activity is eligible for review through the expedited review procedure when the specific circumstances of the proposed research involve no more than minimal risk to human subjects.
- The categories in this list apply regardless of the age of subjects, except as noted.
- The expedited review procedure may not be used where identification of the subjects and/or their responses would reasonably place them at risk of criminal or civil liability or be damaging to the subjects’ financial standing, employability, insurability, reputation, or be stigmatizing, unless reasonable and appropriate protections will be implemented so that risks related to invasion of privacy and breach of confidentiality are no greater than minimal.
- The expedited review procedure may not be used for classified research involving human subjects.
- Categories one (1) through seven (7) pertain to both initial and continuing IRB review.
- Clinical studies of drugs and medical devices only when condition (a) or (b) is met.
a. Research on drugs for which an investigational new drug application (21 CFR Part 312) is not required. (Note: Research on marketed drugs that significantly increases the risks or decreases the acceptability of the risks associated with the use of the product is not eligible for expedited review.)
b. Research on medical devices for which (i) an investigational device exemption application (21 CFR Part 812) is not required; or (ii) the medical device is cleared/approved for marketing and the medical device is being used in accordance with its cleared/approved labeling.
- Collection of blood samples by finger stick, heel stick, ear stick, or venipuncture
a. from healthy, nonpregnant adults who weigh at least 110 pounds. For these subjects, the amounts drawn may not exceed 550 ml in an 8 week period and collection may not occur more frequently than 2 times per week; or
b. from other adults and children2, considering the age, weight, and health of the subjects, the collection procedure, the amount of blood to be collected, and the frequency with which it will be collected. For these subjects, the amount drawn may not exceed the lesser of 50 ml or 3 ml per kg in an 8 week period and collection may not occur more frequently than 2 times per week.
- Prospective collection of biological specimens for research purposes by noninvasive
Examples: (a) hair and nail clippings in a nondisfiguring manner; (b) deciduous teeth at time of exfoliation or if routine patient care indicates a need for extraction; (c) permanent teeth if routine patient care indicates a need for extraction; (d) excreta and external secretions (including sweat); (e) uncannulated saliva collected either in an unstimulated fashion or stimulated by chewing gumbase or wax or by applying a dilute citric solution to the tongue; (f) placenta removed at delivery; (g) amniotic fluid obtained at the time of rupture of the membrane prior to or during labor; (h) supra- and subgingival dental plaque and calculus, provided the collection procedure is not more invasive than routine prophylactic scaling of the teeth and the process is accomplished in accordance with accepted prophylactic techniques; (i) mucosal and skin cells collected by buccal scraping or swab, skin swab, or mouth washings; (j) sputum collected after saline mist nebulization.
- Collection of data through noninvasive procedures (not involving general anesthesia
or sedation) routinely employed in clinical practice, excluding procedures involving
x-rays or microwaves. Where medical devices are employed, they must be cleared/approved
for marketing. (Studies intended to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of the medical
device are not generally eligible for expedited review, including studies of cleared
medical devices for new indications.)
Examples: (a) physical sensors that are applied either to the surface of the body or at a distance and do not involve input of significant amounts of energy into the subject or an invasion of the subject=s privacy; (b) weighing or testing sensory acuity; (c) magnetic resonance imaging; (d) electrocardiography, electroencephalography, thermography, detection of naturally occurring radioactivity, electroretinography, ultrasound, diagnostic infrared imaging, doppler blood flow, and echocardiography; (e) moderate exercise, muscular strength testing, body composition assessment, and flexibility testing where appropriate given the age, weight, and health of the individual.
- Research involving materials (data, documents, records, or specimens) that have been collected, or will be collected solely for nonresearch purposes (such as medical treatment or diagnosis). (NOTE: Some research in this category may be exempt from the HHS regulations for the protection of human subjects. 45 CFR 46.101(b)(4). This listing refers only to research that is not exempt.)
- Collection of information from voice, video, digital, or image recordings made for research purposes that are not exempt under 45 CFR 46.104(d).
- Research on individual or group characteristics or behavior (including, but not limited to, research on perception, cognition, motivation, identity, language, communication, cultural beliefs or practices, and social behavior) or research employing survey, interview, oral history, focus group, program evaluation, human factors evaluation, or quality assurance methodologies. (NOTE: Some research in this category may be exempt from the HHS regulations for the protection of human subjects. 45 CFR 46.101(b)(2) and (b)(3). This listing refers only to research that is not exempt.)
- Continuing review of research previously approved through Full Board Review as follows:
a. where (i) the research is permanently closed to the enrollment of new subjects; (ii) all subjects have completed all research-related interventions; and (iii) the research remains active only for long-term follow-up of subjects; or
b. where no subjects have been enrolled and no additional risks have been identified; or
c. where the remaining research activities are limited to data analysis.
- Continuing review of research, not conducted under an investigational new drug application or investigational device exemption where categories two (2) through eight (8) do not apply but the IRB has determined and documented at a convened meeting that the research involves no greater than minimal risk and no additional risks have been identified.
FULL BOARD REVIEW. Any research project which does not satisfy criteria for Exemption or Expedited Review must undergo Full Board Review.
OUTSIDE IRB JURISDICTION. There are several classifications of research which may involve human subjects but their classification falls outside of the IRB's policies and jurisdiction. Examples include, but are not limited to:
- Teacher and student evaluations;
- Program evaluation research to benefit Tennessee Tech and carried out by Tennessee Tech administrative officials;
- Projects designed to enhance or improve curricula offerings;
- TTU employee performance evaluations;
- State of Tennessee mandated program evaluations;
- Marketing research that is designed to market the Tennessee Tech institution as a product;
- Classroom projects (which do not extend beyond the classroom).