Human Participants Review Board


General Questions

What is the difference between expedited and full review?
A. Proposals that are expedited are reviewed by the unit designate and the HPRB Chair. Most research is expedited. Proposals that require full review are those that involve (1) greater than minimal risk (see below); (2) deception; (3) a vulnerable population, such as children, prisoners, or others with limited decision-making capabilities; (4) interview or survey questions that are of a sensitive nature (e.g., use of alcohol or drugs, cheating, sexuality, violence); or (5) where the researcher cannot assure confidentiality. If any of these conditions are present, the proposal must undergo a full review by the HPRB committee.
What is the difference between anonymity and confidentiality?
A. Research projects may assure either anonymity OR confidentiality (but not both). Anonymity is when the participants' identity and data cannot be linked in any way. Thus surveys can be anonymous IF there is no identifying information and all participants are asked to use the same writing instruments. More information on how to maintain anonymity can be found here. Confidentiality is when the researcher, but no one else, knows the identity of the participants and can link participants with specific data. Confidentiality, but not anonymity, is possible during face-to-face interviews. 
What kind of research has higher than minimal risk?
A. Risk is most obvious in medical and behavioral science research projects involving procedures that may induce a potentially harmful state or condition. Research that subjects participants to deceit, public embarrassment, self-incrimination (including the admission of illegal or immoral behavior), or humiliation involves higher than minimal risk. Research that includes physical activity, such as strenuous physical exercise, is also considered risky.
Do I have to get informed consent?
A. In short, yes. For any kind of confidential research, informed consent can be obtained by asking participants to read and sign an informed consent letter (sample). For anonymous survey research, informed consent can be obtained without a signature, as long as the participant is informed in writing of their rights as a participant and that their completion of the survey indicates their consent to participate. A sample cover letter to include with anonymous surveys is here.
How will I know when I can begin my research?
A. Chair of the HPRB committee will contact you via email as soon as a decision about your proposal has been reached. The possible decisions are (1) approval; (2) approval with stipulations; and (3) no approval. Approval with stipulations is the most common decision. If you receive notice that your project has been approved with stipulations, you must respond to these stipulations and await final approval from the HPRB chair before beginning any work with human participants.
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