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Frequently Asked IRB Questions for Psychology Researchers
What if there are no benefits?
Simply state that there are no direct benefits to participants, but the
knowledge gained from the study may provide benefits to society.
Do I have to include copies of stimulus materials with a claim of exemption?
Generally speaking, no, if you will only be re-analyzing existing data.
The LRB just needs to have enough information to evaluate whether your
project meets the criteria for exemption, and (usually) answering the
questions on the claim of exemption form is sufficient. (But see the
next question for an exception.)
Can collecting new data ever be classified as "exempt"?
Yes, if the data collection process is completely anonymous at every
step OR the research is benign (meaning that it does not place
participants at risk of criminal/civil liability or damage to their
financial standing, employability, or reputation) AND the research fits
within one of the categories of exempt activities. There are some
exceptions, so see the IRB web page for details. If you file a claim of
exemption for collecting new data (such as an anonymous survey) you must
include a copy of the survey with your claim of exemption.
What about class projects? Do I need to ask for IRB approval?
No, class research projects are not research, so long as they are only
reported within the class and are only used to meet course requirements.
If, however, the data will also be used in research (meaning presented
in a talk, poster, or paper outside the class) then IRB approval is
required before beginning the project.
How long should I plan to keep my raw data? What should I say in the section of the IRB protocol form that asks about that?
The rules are that data containing identifiers can be stored for a
maximum of 3 years before seeking IRB approval to continue keeping it
longer, but completely anonymous data can be archived indefinitely. So
if you need to keep identifiers linked to the data for a long time,
state a time period of no more than 3 years. If your data is completely
anonymous, state that "Anonymous data will be archived indefinitely." If
your data initially contains identifiers that can be linked to
individuals, but you only need them temporarily, state when and how you
will remove all identifying information from the data, and then state
that after doing so the anonymous data will be archived indefinitely.
What does "completely anonymous" mean?
It means that there is nothing in the data that could be used to link
any individual to his or her data. Data that contains names, social
security numbers, or other identifying information is not anonymous.
Neither is data that contains arbitrary identifiers IF there is a list
linking those identifiers to individuals.
Are Quickdata web surveys anonymous?
If you do not collect the participants' name or any other identifying
information, then probably yes, it would be anonymous. (The consent form
should not collect names either; just have them click "I agree.") This
does NOT mean it is OK to use Quickdata to collect highly confidential
information, however. If your research is asking for non-benign or more
than minimal risk information, you should contact ITD and ask for help
finding a computer security consultant to help you collect confidential
information safely. Quickdata is not designed for surveys that require
secure data transmission.
Are Qualtrics web surveys anonymous?
For sensitive information that you want to collect fully
anonymously, it is important to make sure that your survey does not
record the IP address of the participant’s computer. If you go to
"Survey Options" in Qualtrics and select "Anonymize Response," then the
IP addresses will not be collected and your data can be fully anonymous.
Is Amazon's Mechanical Turk (MTurk) data anonymous?
No, MTurk data is not anonymous (see this article
details). There are also potential privacy issues related to the way
that Amazon links data across its services. The IRB has provided
specific wording to use regarding MTurk in the Consent Form and
Information Sheet templates on the DePaul IRB web site. Be sure to use
the language from the most recent versions of these documents provided
by the IRB.