Campus Institutional Review Board

IRB staff are here to help you navigate the process for submitting research protocols to the Campus IRB. We provide one-on-one consultations to faculty and students, and are available to provide training, seminars, and workshops.

Our site includes request for approval forms, guides, samples, and other resources grouped by topic.

Call us if you have any questions.

Before You Begin

Defining research with human subjects is not always easy. If you have any questions about the following definitions or explanations call us.

To meet the definition of research with human subjects, one or both of the following must be true:

  1. You are conducting a pilot study or other preliminary research.
  2. You have designed a study to collect information in a systematic way to answer a research question or to analyze identifiable information collected by someone else.

And you must be:

  1. Interacting with living human beings in order to gather data about them, using methods such as interviews, focus groups, questionnaires, and participant observation, or
  2. Conducting interventions with living human beings such as experiments and manipulations of subjects or subjects' environments, or
  3. Observing or recording private behavior (behavior that individuals have a reasonable expectation will not be observed and recorded), or
  4. Obtaining private identifiable information that has been collected about or provided by individuals, such as a school record or identifiable information collected by another researcher or organization.
General Policy

The Campus IRB reviews research conducted by faculty, students, and staff in the Arts and Sciences, the Schools of Engineering, Law, Business, Divinity, and the Environment, as well as Campus institutes, centers, and programs, including the Duke Global Health Institute.

If a campus researcher plans to conduct research at a Duke Medicine facility, or plans to access Protected Health Information (PHI) held by the Medical Center, the protocol must be submitted to a Duke Medicine IRB.

However, the Campus IRB may review some collaborative studies between Campus and Duke Medicine researchers and may review the collection of biological samples and data for studies in the social and behavioral sciences.

Collaborative Studies

The Campus IRB can review collaborative research when:

  1. An investigator from a campus academic unit will collaborate with a Duke Medicine researcher to conduct a study in the social and behavioral sciences, provided the research not take place at a Medical Center facility or use PHI held by Duke Medicine.
  2. A graduate student or undergraduate student from a campus academic unit asks a researcher from Duke Medicine to serve as an advisor, provided the research will not take place at a Duke Medicine facility or use PHI held by Duke Medicine.
Collection of Biological Samples and Data

The Campus IRB may review a study in the social and behavioral sciences that will involve the collection of biological samples and data, using non-invasive procedures. Examples of biological specimens include hair and nail clippings, and saliva. Physiological data collection includes weighing, testing sensory acuity, as well as the collection of data through galvanic skin response electrocardiography, electroencephalography, and thermography.  The campus IRB may also review research using moderate exercise. The full list of procedures can be found in Research Eligible for Expedited Review: Federal Register 1998.

Biological samples also include blood collection, as described in the list of research activities eligible for expedited review.

  • Note: If the biological samples are collected or analyzed in a lab that is part of a Duke Medicine facility, the protocol must be reviewed by a Duke Medicine IRB.

If you are collaborating with researchers at other institutions or organizations in the US or abroad, please contact the IRB staff before you begin writing your protocol.

If you plan to hire individuals or firms to help you conduct the research, please call.

Why? We don’t want you to spend time preparing material the IRB doesn’t need, omit information that should be included in the protocol, or delay your research waiting for agreements with other institutions or individuals to be put in place.


Information is considered individually identifiable if it could reveal the identity of a participant, either directly (e.g. name) or through deductive disclosure (e.g. a combination of unique characteristics, such as a student's gender, year in school, major, and athletic affiliation).

Information is sensitive if an inadvertent release of that information could cause potential risk of harm to the participant. Some examples of sensitive information include a subjects' mental health, sexual behavior, or illegal behavior, such as underage drinking or drug use.

What you need to do

If you are collecting individually identifiable information about participants that is sensitive:

  1. Your protocol will need to include a data security plan. The IRB staff will pre-review the plan and forward it to Duke’s Information Technology Security Office (ITSO). The IRB staff have worked with ITSO to create guidelines for acceptable and recommended data protection procedures, including a list of approved servers for storing sensitive data.
  2. You may also need a Certificate of Confidentiality (CoC). Contact the IRB to determine whether you will need a CoC.

The protocol can be reviewed by the IRB, but final approval cannot be issued until ITSO has reviewed the data security plan.

Obtaining a CoC and ITSO review will add to the time needed to secure IRB approval.

Please note that undergraduate students cannot collect or access identifiable sensitive information about other Duke undergraduate students.