An institutional review board (IRB), or ethics committee, reviews proposed and ongoing research conducted with human subjects. The purpose of the IRB review is to protect the rights and safety of human participants. The IRB review process was initiated in response to the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, in which subjects received substandard medical care without their consent. Initially focused on biomedical research, IRBs now review social science research and often liberal arts research as well (e.g., living history interviews). Institutions seeking federal funding must have an IRB, and the IRB must review and approve federally funded research studies. Most institutions require IRB approval for all research that involves human subjects, not just that funded by the federal government.

The IRB process begins before participants are recruited ...

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