The Juvenile Justice Professional's Guide to
Human Subjects Protection and the IRB Process
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Human Subjects Research
Ethical Principles of the Belmont Report
The Institutional Review Board (IRB)
Protecting Human Subjects from Harm
The Consent Process
Privacy Protections
Related Laws


An IRB reviews research proposals to determine if the proposed research project follows the ethical principles and human subject regulations.

Juvenile justice professionals are responsible for insuring that all research projects involving youth, families, or other human subjects adhere to the ethical principles and human subject regulations.

The Institutional Review Board (IRB) is a committee that is formally designated by an organization to review and monitor human subjects research. The IRB is the key mechanism for safeguarding the rights of juveniles, their families, and all other research participants and for maintaining the integrity of juvenile justice research. This committee reviews research protocols in advance of the study and, through periodic review, assures ongoing ethical and legal research practice. The IRB has the authority to approve, disapprove, or require modifications to a research project. The Common Rule requires that proposed research undergo review by a legitimate IRB before federal funds for research can be expended.

Exempt Research

Specified categories of low risk research are exempt from the requirements of the Common Rule.
  1. Research conducted in established or commonly accepted educational settings, where the research involves an evaluation of educational strategies or techniques.

  2. Research involving the use of educational tests (cognitive, diagnostic, achievement), survey procedures, interview procedures, or observation of public behavior.

    1. This exemption does not apply when subjects can be identified, directly or indirectly, and where disclosure of the information collected could reasonably place the subject at risk for criminal or civil liability, or for financial or social damage.

    2. This exemption does not apply to research that involves children, except for research involving observations of public behavior when the researcher(s) does not participate in the activities being observed.

    3. This exemption does not apply when Federal statute requires, without exception, that the confidentiality of the personally identifiable information be maintained during and after the research program.

    4. This exemption does apply when human subjects are elected or appointed public officials or candidates for public office even when information is not anonymous and could place the subject at risk for damage or liability.

  3. Research involving the collection or study of existing data or material, but only if the data or material are publicly available or when the researcher records the information with no link to the identity of the subject.

  4. Research and demonstration projects conducted by, or subject to, the approval of Department or Agency heads and designed to examine public benefit or service programs.

Researchers may propose to the IRB that a particular study is exempt from IRB review. Researchers may not judge research as exempt. It is the role of the IRB to determine whether or not an exemption applies to a proposed research study.

Even if juvenile justice organizations are involved in human subjects research that is exempt from the Common Rule, they are not exempt from ethical responsibilities to protect the rights and welfare of juveniles. Organizations are obligated to practice ethical behavior not only in research, but also in day-to-day use of youth information.

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