Office for Research Protections Moving to One IRB Committee

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Office for Research Protections     |     Institutional Review Board (IRB) 

Starting January 1, 2017, the IRB program will be moving from two IRB committees to one. The Institutional Review Boards and IRB program have undergone significant changes over the past four years with the implementation of the CATS IRB system.  During this time, the number of submissions requiring full committee review has decreased by 66%. 

This decrease in submissions to the full committee is due to the IRB program’s reevaluation of its interpretation of the federal regulations. Most social/behavioral/educational applications meet criteria for expedited review or exemption determination and therefore do not require full committee review. Moreover, continuing reviews and modifications for studies deemed minimal risk by the full committee may qualify for expedited review. This reassessment of processes is part of the IRB’s commitment to reducing researcher burden. 

According to IRB Program Director Sara Horn, “We expect the move to one IRB committee will have little effect on IRB turnaround times given that only a very small percentage of submissions are currently reviewed at the full committee level.” Additionally, for the calendar year of 2017, the IRB will meet more frequently during busier submission times. The IRB is scheduled to meet 14 times in 2017; for a schedule of IRB meeting dates, please see The IRB committee is comprised of faculty, staff, and community members who serve as voluntary members; the Office for Research Protections is grateful for their service to Penn State and the research community.