Research with Human Participants

Institutional Review Board for Human Participant Research (IRB)

If you are conducting research with human participants (e.g., surveys, interviews, blood draws, secondary data analysis), you will need to obtain approval from the Cornell Institutional Review Board for Human Participants (IRB) before starting your research. The world of human participant research can be complicated and confusing, but there is a wealth of information on this website (and the IRB office staff are always available) to help researchers at all levels of experience navigate ethical and regulatory considerations in designing and carrying out human subjects research.

Do I need IRB approval?

Not all research activities that involve humans, or data collected from humans, actually meet the definition of "human participant research" under federal regulations. Luckily, the Cornell IRB office created a decision tree you can use to help figure out if your study will need IRB review and approval. When in doubt, contact the IRB office.

Note: "Exemption" from IRB review is not the same thing as "not human participant research"; exempt research is still considered human participant research under federal regulations, though it can be reviewed and approved administratively by IRB staff, rather than the IRB committee.

Submit an IRB protocol application

To obtain IRB approval/exemption for a new study, create a new protocol in RASS-IRB. We recommend you use our informed consent form templates, as well as guidance and templates for specific biomedical procedures (e.g., venipuncture, MRI).

For changes to your protocol, request an amendment in RASS-IRB. For full board protocols, you must also submit a request for continuing approval (renewal) each year, regardless of whether or not any of your study procedures or personnel have changed.

You can check on the status of your protocol in RASS-IRB. How-to documentation for RASS-IRB is available on the RASS Guide Site.

Looking for Guidance and Resources?

The IRB office has a variety of resources that can help you to understand the main processes and guidelines used by the Cornell IRB, as well as external policies, regulations, and best practices that might apply to your research using human participants. Visit the IRB Guidance and Resources page (and poke around this website—there are many gems to find!).

Get Training

All research personnel are required to complete human participant research ethics (IRB) training. For NIH-funded clinical trials, research personnel must also complete Good Clinical Practice (GCP) training. Cornell uses the online CITI program to provide these trainings.

Take training, or learn more about IRB training requirements and options.

IRB Staff Consultations: IRB staff are available to meet via Zoom or phone to provide assistance with protocol applications and answer IRB-related questions. We use Microsoft Bookings to schedule Zoom consultations. You can also reach out directly to IRB staff; visit the IRB Office page for contact information.

Federal Wide Assurances (FWAs). Cornell's Human Research Protection Program operates under a Federal Wide Assurance (FWA) filed with the US Department of Health and Human Services. (Note: the Weill Cornell Medicine IRBs operated under a different FWA.)

  • Ithaca, Geneva, and Tech campuses: FWA 00004513