IRB Frequently Asked Questions

General Submission Questions

Who can I call for assistance in preparing an application and understanding the submission process?

The IRB staff is happy to help. Contact the IRB if you or your research group would like to arrange for an IRB staff member to provide an educational session. IRB coordinators are assigned to support specific departments. Refer to the coordinator assignments to determine who supports your unit. In addition, the IRB hosts 101 courses designed for new investigators. A schedule is available on the Training and Education page.

To reach the IRB office, email or call 31--977-7744.

Does my project need to be submitted to the IRB?

All faculty, staff and students at Saint Louis University conducting research involving human subjects must submit their research protocol to the IRB for review and approval prior to commencing the project. In order to assist investigators in deciding whether a planned activity constitutes as research involving human subjects, the IRB has created the educational brochure, "Is Your Project Human Subjects Research? A Guide for Investigators" and a human subjects research determination checklist to assist in determinations.

If uncertain, or for official determinations of whether IRB submission is required, complete the SLU IRB human subjects research determinations form.

Does my submission have to be submitted by a meeting deadline?

Full board applications must be submitted by the deadline to be assigned to the next IRB meeting. Exempt and expedited submissions do not; they are reviewed as submitted.

What is a Protocol Preparation Committee (PPC)? Does my department have one? Do I need to submit my application to a PPC?

In some departments/schools, there is a Protocol Preparation Committee (PPC) that conducts scientific review of protocols prior to submission to the IRB.

If your department or school has a PPC, you must submit your protocol to the PPC for review prior to submitting to the IRB. The PPC will review your protocol for scientific merit and adherence to IRB instructions. This process is built into eIRB. 

When is scientific review needed and how many reviews are required?
Scientific review is required for all non-sponsored research protocols excluding Biomedical Exempt Submissions. At least one scientific reviewer is required to approve the protocol in eIRB. 
I am conducting an activity for purposes of quality improvement (QI). Do QI studies need to be submitted to the SLU IRB?
It depends on the nature of the activity. QI studies are studies where the intent is to promote betterment of a process of care, clinical outcome or institutional practice. You must submit to the IRB if your project:
  • has QI data being examined or re-examined to create generalizable knowledge;
  • will impose risks or burdens beyond the standard practice to make results generalizable; or
  • involves randomization or any element that may be considered less than standard of care.

For further guidance, refer to these study guidelines.

At what point does a class project require submission to the IRB?

If a class research project is designed or done with the intent to develop or contribute to generalizable knowledge.

If you plan to publish your data in any way (e.g. abstract, article or poster) or plan on sharing your data outside of a classroom setting, then you should certainly contact the IRB. 

 Informed Consent

What does the IRB stamp mean on a consent document?

The approval stamp date corresponds with the date that the IRB gave the study approval (e.g., the IRB meeting date). The approval termination is the date that IRB approval of the study expires (typically one year from the approval date, but could be less). If a consent document was modified during the approval period, the stamp would also have the date that the change was approved (it corresponds with the date that the IRB signed a change-in-protocol form).

Subjects who enroll on a study must sign a valid consent document (i.e., the study approval has not expired). This consent is valid for the duration of the subject's participation unless changes to a study require a subject to be re-consented with a modified document. For more information, see the consent do's and don'ts


Does HIPAA apply to my project?

 If your project involves recording identifiable personal information with health information (PHI), then HIPAA applies. See the HIPAA tip sheet for scenarios to help you.

Learn more about IRB HIPAA requirements

Adverse Event Reporting

Do I need to report deaths that are expected outcomes on the adverse event report form?

Yes, if it meets the criteria for a reportable SAE per SLU guidelines. The SAE decision tree is available to assist in making determinations.

What if a serious adverse event occurs and it's not possible to submit a complete adverse event report  within three calendar days?

The reporting requirement stipulates that the serious adverse event be reported in three calendar days. If some details of the report cannot be completed, submit the report with a statement that a revised report will be submitted to the IRB when the details are known.

SAE reports can be submitted in eIRB during all hours.

A subject enrolled in a study at SLU has been admitted to the emergency room for a non-study related illness. Does this event need to be reported to the SLU IRB?

No. The IRB does not require submission of events that are not reasonably related to the protocol (e.g., motor vehicle accident).

Amendments to Protocol

I am preparing an amendment to add/delete research personnel on my currently approved SLU IRB protocol, what information is necessary?

Be sure to describe in detail which personnel are being deleted vs. which personnel are being added. You must also provide a brief description of the new study personnel's roles and responsibilities for the project (e.g. Joe Smith, the new research coordinator, is responsible for screening potential subjects, obtaining informed consent, and follow-up calls). Also, when adding new personnel, proof of training will be required if it does not populate into eIRB.

Subject Recruitment

Can subjects be recruited via email?

Yes, however, it is important to state in your protocol how the email addresses were obtained (i.e., The PI is a professor and has email addresses of his students in a distribution list, the potential subjects have agreed to be contacted for research by signing up for a registry online or the list has been made accessible for research purposes to the PI).

When contacting subjects directly (via mailed letter or email message), the introductory paragraph should include a general statement regarding how the investigator obtained the subjects' contact information (e.g., "We are contacting members of the XXX Association regarding..." or "You are receiving this questionnaire because you are a health care provider in the state of Missouri.")

Other Questions

I have completed a human subject's protection course online at a former institution that covered the same topics as the CITI IRB training course. Is it necessary that I take the CITI course?
As long as you have completed a training course on protecting human subjects in research (i.e., covering such topics as ethical codes, special populations, the consent process, HIPAA, etc.), your certificate of completion is sufficient documentation. You must submit a copy of this certificate with your application to the SLU IRB. The IRB will do a comparison between content of the course you completed versus our required content; if drastic differences are found, you may be required to take SLU's CITI course. 
What is the difference between de-identified and coded?

De-identified, according to HIPAA (or "the Privacy Rule") means health information about an individual that does not identify an individual and with respect to which there is no reasonable basis to believe that the information can be used to identify an individual is not individually identifiable health information. (45 CFR 164.514 (a-b)).

Data can be de-identified if:

  • A qualified person has determined that there is statistically only a "very small risk" that the information could be used to identify a subject. Data can be de-identified if assigned a random code (not derived from or related to the individual); and
  • none of the 18 identifiers are recorded (name, address, social security numbers, etc.)

Coded means that:

  • identifying information (name, address, social security number, etc.) that would enable the investigator to readily ascertain the identity of the individual to whom the symbol, or combination thereof (i.e., the code); and
  • a key to decipher the code (a master list) exists, enabling linkage of the identifying information to the private information or specimens.

According to the definitions above, both terms are designed to protect the identity of the subject in combination with information recorded for the study. Coding can be a method used to protect identifiable health information. Coding may also be used in studies that do not collect health information. If a study is collecting private or sensitive information (e.g., alcohol consumption, sexual orientation, abuse history), but not health information, coding is a method that can be used to protect the identity of the subjects providing such information.

My protocol has been inactive for over a year. How do I re-activate it?
The project will need to be resubmitted as a new application. 
My study sponsor wants a copy of the IRB membership list. Why does the IRB want us to provide them with a standard letter instead?

The sponsor needs to make sure an investigator is using an IRB that complies with the requirements from 21 CFR 56 [see 21 CFR 312.23(a)(1)(iv)]. The sponsor views a membership list as one marker of compliance. The FDA information sheets (see "Sponsor-Investigator-IRB relationship" in the 1998 update) state:

FDA regulations [21 CFR 312.23(a)(1)(iv)] require that a sponsor assure the FDA that a study will be conducted in compliance with the informed consent and IRB regulations [21 CFR parts 50 and 56]. This requirement has been misinterpreted to mean that it is a sponsor's obligation to determine IRB compliance with the regulations. This is not the case. Sponsors should rely on the clinical investigator, who assures the sponsor on form FDA-1572 for drugs and biologics or the investigator agreement for devices that the study will be reviewed by an IRB. Because clinical investigators work directly with IRBs, it is appropriate that they assure the sponsor that the IRB is functioning in compliance with the regulations.

Some sponsors operate outside of the United States and have asked for a written statement that the IRB is in compliance with the ICH guidelines. They commonly refer to 5.11 ("Confirmation of Review by IRB/IEC"). These are guidelines only and are not regulations.

The Saint Louis University IRB membership often changes (especially during the course of the study which can be several years). Therefore, in response to these requests, the IRB provides two standard letters (IRB membership and conflict of interest forms) to address the sponsor's concerns related to IRB compliance.