October 28, 2015

COPH Hosts IRB Workshop for Students

U A M S I R B Program Manager Edith Paal, M S Journ, M P H

Edith Paal, MSJourn, MPH

The UAMS College of Public Health’s Office of Student Affairs (OSA) on Oct. 21 hosted a workshop for students about working with the UAMS Institutional Review Board (IRB). UAMS IRB Program Manager Edith Paal, MSJourn, MPH, made a presentation about what is involved in applying for IRB review and approval of a research protocol.

All COPH students must submit a research proposal to the IRB to fulfill degree program requirements. Ms. Paal, who is a COPH alumna, said that she well remembers her own dread as she “tried to figure out how to navigate the IRB process.”

Because of her own experience as a student, she said that she is particularly attuned to student needs, noting that rejection of a study protocol is something that very rarely occurs at UAMS. However, submitting a study proposal and having it sail through the IRB with no questions or revisions is also rare, even for the seasoned researcher.

Ms. Paal, who is responsible for the initial review of all research protocols submitted for IRB approval, explained the steps in the two-phase process. The first step is applying for determination, by the IRB office, about whether a project is considered research involving human projects. If the answer is no, then the process is complete. If the answer is yes, then a researcher must apply for IRB approval of the intended study protocol.

She offered some tips to help the process go smoothly, by reducing revisions and delays: Don’t hurry. Complete all steps in the electronic submission process. Use the templates, tools and advice on the IRB website. Answer every question clearly and thoroughly. To write the study protocol, don’t modify an existing protocol but start fresh and use the protocol template provided on the IRB website. Allow plenty of time for the submission, revisions and a response from the IRB office.

“The better the information you turn in, the faster you will hear from us,” she said.

Ms. Paal also encouraged students to not make their projects overly complex, keeping in mind the main objectives, which are to learn and fulfill program requirements.

“You are not trying to cure cancer, end world hunger or save the world in one semester,” she said. “You are trying to get your degree.”

If a student has questions about the submission process or hasn’t heard from the IRB office in a reasonable time after completing either a human subjects research determination form or study protocol, one should not hesitate to email or call the IRB office.

“We at the IRB are here to help you,” she said.

The workshop was one of several hosted by OSA for the 2015-16 academic year. Earlier this semester, OSA hosted a writing and plagiarism workshop, which the UAMS Writing Center conducted. A workshop on resume writing and job interviewing is planned for the 2016 spring semester.