Sociobehavioral Research\Minimal Risk Studies

The majority of socio-behavioral studies will fall into expedited, exempt or not-human-subjects research categories. However, the IRB may also determine that a project is actually public health practice, educational practice, or other non-research activity. The IRB uses a very narrow definition of “research,” needing IRB review; oral history, ethnography, and some student projects, for example, may also fall outside this narrow definition. Determining whether a project needs IRB review is often a nuanced and challenging process. 

Oral History and Journalistic Activities

Per OHRP’s draft guidance (July 19, 2018), oral history and journalistic activities do not require IRB review if objective of the activities is to provide an accurate and evidence-based portrayal of the individuals involved, and not to develop generalizable knowledge. In contrast, if the activity involves collecting and using information about individuals for the purpose of drawing generalizations about such individuals or a population of which they are members, then it will be considered “research” and may need IRB review or an exemption determination. Note that (also per the guidance), “It is not the particular field that removes the activity from the definition, but rather that the purpose and design of the particular activity is to focus on specific individuals and not to extend the activity’s findings to other individuals or groups.”  The Emory IRB tries to work with the particular characteristics of oral history research, including the fact that projects often involve open-ended, conversational interviews for which specific questions cannot be submitted in advance to the IRB; also that identifiers often need to be retained, topics can be emotional in nature, and interviewees, when adequately informed about the nature of the project, can decide if their identifiable responses may put them at risk in some way.

Anthropology/Ethnography
While projects in this field are often examinations of quite unique places and cultures, the work is usually done in order to gain knowledge about human behavior more generally, to generalize to a larger theory, to contribute to the academic field. While they may be exempt, they usually require at least an initial IRB submission. 

International Research
Please see the "International Research" page via the navigation bar on the left side of this page.

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