An Institutional Review Board (IRB) is a committee that, according to federal regulations (45-CFR-46), must evaluate the potential physical and/or psychological risk of research involving human subjects. All proposed human research must be reviewed and approved by an IRB before experimentation begins. This includes review of any surveys or questionnaires.
Federal regulations require local community involvement; therefore an IRB should be established at the school level to evaluate human research projects. An IRB at the school or ISEF Affiliated Fair level must consist of a minimum of three members. In order to eliminate conflict of interest, the Adult Sponsor, parents, the Qualified Scientist, and the Designated Supervisor who oversee a specific project must not serve on the IRB reviewing that project. Additional members are recommended to help avoid this conflict of interest and to increase the expertise of the committee.
This IRB must include:
- an educator
- a school administrator (preferably, a principal or vice principal)
- one of the following who is knowledgeable and capable of evaluating the physical and/or psychological risk involved in a given study: a medical doctor, physician’s assistant, registered nurse, psychologist, licensed clinical professional counselor or licensed social worker.
Note: The last requirement above requires different IRB formations for different human participant’s research. For example, if a study involves participation in an exercise routine, it would suggest the need for a medical professional, whereas, if a study involved surveying subjects about their eating habits, which might involve some psychological risk, a person knowledgeable about mental health would be more appropriate.