The Institutional Review Board
The Swarthmore College Research Ethics Committee serves as the College's Institutional Review Board (IRB), which is charged with reviewing all research involving human subjects conducted under the auspices of the College by its faculty, students, and staff, as well as research by outside investigators involving Swarthmore students or personnel.
All colleges and universities are required by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to have IRBs in order to protect human subjects involved in research. It is the responsibility of those IRBs to ensure that investigators comply with the relevant federal regulations and ethical guidelines set forth by the Office for Human Research Protections (OHRP).
Any member of the Swarthmore community—whether faculty, staff, or student—who conducts research involving human subjects must receive prior approval from the Swarthmore IRB, i.e. approval before any data collection or interaction with potential research participants.
The IRB's mission is not simply to ensure that researchers are in compliance with federal regulations, but also more generally to foster ethical principles of beneficence, justice, and respect of individuals' dignity and autonomy. When the IRB, the administration, and researchers uphold these foundational principles of human subjects research, they honor our institution's mission and core values.
At the same time, the IRB works to make community members aware of the importance of compliance not only for research subjects, but also for other Swarthmore researchers. Noncompliance could, for example, lead to federal suspension of all research involving human subjects at the College. IRB review is also important for individual researchers because many professional journals require IRB approval of research as a condition for publishing reports based on the results.