Academic Administration

Institutional Review Board (IRB)

Protection of individual rights and welfare is a responsibility shared collectively by Pacific Union College, PUC faculty, and PUC students. Such individual rights and welfare apply to individuals who either knowingly or unknowingly become participants in a research project.

In order to protect research participants, PUC has created an Institutional Review Board (IRB). The description of the IRB, as outlined by the PUC Faculty Handbook, is as follows:

The Institutional Review Board is responsible for ensuring that appropriate steps are taken to protect the rights and welfare of humans participating as subjects in any college-based research study. Proposals typically come to committee from academic departments in which faculty mentors guide their students in course-based research. The committee also considers proposals from external researchers who wish to do studies involving PUC faculty, staff or students. Finally, the IRB is charged with ensuring that animal research is conducted in accordance with ethical standards.

The IRB's domain is limited to issues of participant rights and welfare, including procedures and consequences; the IRB has no role in altering the substantive content of research projects (including topic choice and research methodologies) or the selected measuring tools. With that said, the IRB has the authority to approve, disapprove, and require modifications to research projects involving human subjects. Once approved, the IRB must monitor the progress of the ongoing research, prospectively approve modifications, and, if necessary to protect subjects, suspend a research project.

Definition of Human Participants

The IRB defines "human participant" as any living individual from whom an investigator (including student investigators) conducting research obtains identifiable personal information from indirect methods or data through interaction, observation, or intervention with the individual.

Extra care must be taken when some or all of the proposed human participants are likely to be vulnerable to coercion or undue influence. Examples of such individuals include children, pregnant women, developmentally disabled persons, educationally disadvantaged persons, economically disadvantaged persons, or prisoners. Additional safeguards must be included in the study in order to protect the rights and welfare of these subjects. 

Proposal Submission Process

The IRB will need to review any proposed research project that involves the use of human participants. The IRB must ensure that appropriate steps are taken to protect the rights and welfare of human participants. Additionally, the IRB must determine if the risks to individual participants are reasonable in relation to the anticipated benefits of the study. In most cases, informed consent will need to be acquired from the human participants.

Completed IRB applications from both external and internal investigators may be dropped off in Chan Shun Hall 102, mailed, faxed, or emailed to the Associate Academic Dean’s office (contact information below). Applicants should anticipate a maximum 10-day processing time for the IRB Committee to review their research proposal during regular academic sessions. When school is not in session, the processing time may be longer. If you would like to know when the committee regularly meets each quarter in order to coordinate a timely submission of your IRB paperwork, please call the Associate Academic Dean’s office.

Associate Academic Dean’s Office
Academic Administration
One Angwin Ave.
Angwin, CA 94508
Phone: 707-965-7103 | Fax: 707-965-7104

Classroom Projects and IRB Review

Certain activities have the characteristics of research, but do not meet the regulatory definition of research needing IRB review. Use the following guidelines to determine if your activities in the classroom are subject to IRB review. 

IRB review and approval is NOT required if all of the following are true:

  1. The project is limited to surveys/questionnaires/interviews/observations of public behavior directly related to topics being studied in an official college course.
  2. The above surveys/questionnaires/activities, etc. contain no sensitive personal questions (e.g., no questions about drug use, sexual behavior or attitudes, criminal activity, grades, medical history) or other personal information that could stigmatize an individual.
  3. No identifying information is recorded to link a person with the data such that it could reasonably harm the individual's reputation, employability, financial standing, or place them at risk for criminal or civil liability.
  4. The participants in the project are not from a vulnerable or special population (e.g., no pregnant women, prisoners, minors, cognitively impaired individuals).
  5. The collected data does not leave the classroom setting under any circumstances and is not published.
  6. No Pacific Union College employee or student is receiving financial compensation for collecting, organizing, analyzing, or reporting the data.

If your activities in the classroom do not meet these guidelines, then formal IRB review and approval are required before you can start with your project.