Everything You Need to Know About the IRB

Board room meeting

The Grand Canyon University Institutional Review Board (IRB) is a crucial part of the dissertation process. All learners would benefit from understanding the role of IRB in overseeing research to protect human subjects.

The role of GCU IRB is to review all research conducted by GCU staff, faculty and learners to ensure high-quality research is conducted in a responsible and ethical manner. As stated in the GCU’s IRB Research Center on Doctoral Community (DC) Network and Center for Innovation in Research and Teaching (CIRT), the IRB complies with the university policy as well as the federal regulations governing the protection of human subjects published by the Office of Human Research Protections within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). In addition to overseeing research, the IRB ensures that students receive training in research ethics through CITI program before any research may begin.


All IRBs must operate by the same set of regulations; however universities may have their own additional policies.

The Nuremberg Code

The Nuremberg Code is a set of international research standards written during the Nuremberg Trials after World War II. The Code sets out ten points, focusing on the need for the informed consent of human subjects in research, willingness of researchers to terminate research at any point where human subjects are at risk. Additionally, the Code states that research should always have some value to society.

The Belmont Report

The Belmont Report is the standard for HHS research regulations. The National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research wrote this basic set of ethical research principles in 1979.

The three basic principles of ethical research are “respect for persons,” “beneficence” and “justice.” In other words, researchers must treat subjects respectfully by seeking informed consent (respect for persons), minimize risks to subjects (beneficence) and ensure that distribution of subjects is fair through sound research design and procedures (justice).

Federal Regulation 45.CFR.46

45.CFR.46 (or Title 45, part 46 in the Code of Federal Regulations) comes from the National Research Act of 1974, which outlines four kinds of human protections: (1) universal protections for all human research subjects, (2) additional protections for women, unborn and newborn infants, (3) additional protections for prisoners and (4) additional protections for children.

Documents like the Nuremberg Code and Belmont Report are important standards for IRBs to reference, but they are general guidelines that don’t account for the differences between human subjects. 45.CFR.46 makes specific protections to fill in the gaps, though these regulations don’t apply outside the United States.

CITI Program

The GCU IRB requires researchers to complete the “Basic Research” and “Responsible Conduct of Research” courses through the CITI Program, which certifies learners for five years. This requirement directly affects learners, who will need to have a strong understanding of research ethics under IRB oversight.

IRB and doctoral learners

All doctoral learners completing dissertations, and faculty, staff and student researchers are required to obtain approval from the GCU’s Institutional Review Board (IRB) in accordance with GCU’s policy. Learners may not begin recruiting participants or implementing data collection activities until they receive official notification of IRB approval. The IRB Research Center is designed to help doctoral learners complete all required steps and ensure the IRB submission and review processes goes as smoothly as possible.

Are you ready to pursue a rewarding challenge, develop innovative research and advance your career? Learn more about what Grand Canyon University College of Doctoral Studies has had to offer you by visiting our website or clicking on the Request More Information button on this page.

Written by Samuel Sprague, a public policy major at Grand Canyon University.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.