The Institutional Review Board (IRB) exists to support the stated mission of the college which affirms the dignity, freedom and inherent value of each person while seeking to provide a value-oriented education characterized by integrity and social responsibility. By providing institutional oversight for the ethical conduct of research with human subjects, the IRB is designed to insure such values are maintained whether the research is for the edification of our students or for the advancement of general knowledge. The principles governing the structure and procedures of the IRB were drawn from several public sources including the Code of Federal Regulations (Title 45, Part 46) adopted by the Office of Human Research Protections (OHRP) of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Belmont Report commissioned by the Department of Health Education and Welfare (HEW), the Protecting Human Beings report provided by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), Ethical Principles of Psychologists endorsed by the American Psychological Association (APA), and the Codes of Ethics endorsed by the American Sociological Association (ASA) and the American Nurses Association (ANA).
The focus of the St. Joseph’s College (SJC) IRB is limited solely to the ethics of research with human subjects conducted: (1) by our faculty, administration, staff or students; (2) with students affiliated with SJC serving as subjects; or (3) at SJC facilities. As we are committed to academic freedom, an IRB review will not consider the methodological soundness, educational value, or political correctness of human subjects research unless these factors directly impact the ethical conduct of the research, or violate any applicable laws.
Reviews conducted by the IRB will adhere to the following ethical principles reflected in the Belmont Report (1979) and embedded in most governmental and institutional review boards:
Respect for Persons: In most cases, prospective research subjects should be treated as autonomous agents who must be given adequate information so as to make informed decisions whether or not to voluntarily participate in the research. In cases where prospective subjects have diminished autonomy due to cognitive, emotional, or situational factors, additional measures should be employed to protect them from harm. The principles of informed consent and voluntary participation can be waived only under special circumstances which must be specified by the IRB.
Beneficence: Research should strive to maximize benefits for research subjects and/or the general public while minimizing potential physical or psychological harm to them. Research which puts subjects at more than minimal risk for harm must be fully justified in terms of expected benefits as well as specific procedures to minimize their risk as much as possible and to treat any harm that may result.
Justice: Classes of potential research subjects should not be systematically selected for their easy availability, compromised position, or expected manipulability; rather than for reasons directly related to the problems being studied. Once obtained, subjects must be treated fairly and honestly, free of prejudice based on gender, age, race, religion, sexual orientation, or any other protected class status. The research findings should be made available to interested subjects except in cases when such findings are expected to be more harmful than beneficial.
The specific applications of these general principles are delineated in the IRB procedures for Exempt, Expedited and Full Review.