What Is the Role of the Institutional Review Board?

Conference room with professionals reviewing research proposals

As a doctoral researcher at Grand Canyon University, you may occasionally collaborate with other learners in your program. However, for the majority of your time, you will engage in independent, original research. Wherever your research takes you, all research proposals must be approved by GCU’s Institutional Review Board (IRB).

Understanding the Institutional Review Board

The Institutional Review Board is an administrative entity established for the purpose of safeguarding the welfare and rights of human research participants. GCU’s IRB follows the processes established by federal regulations, the Belmont Report and GCU policy and procedures. The IRB has the authority to reject or approve your proposed research as well as monitor it and require modifications.

Identifying Research That Requires IRB Approval

All studies and projects that meet the federal definition of research and involve human subjects, require IRB approval. Under federal regulations, “research” is defined as any systematic testing, evaluation or investigation. “Human subject” is defined as any living individual whose data or identifiable private information is available to the researcher. Even analysis of data that is readily available in publicly accessible databases needs IRB approval. No screening, recruiting or data collection of any kind should begin until receiving official IRB approval. Failure to obtain IRB approval is a serious research ethics violation.

Understanding the Requirements for IRB Approval

IRB processes varies for each individual project. In general, your research proposal must meet the following requirements:

  • You are qualified to conduct the research.
  • You have created an ethical research environment.
  • Your research design takes the required steps to protect human participants.

Your research should contribute to the body of knowledge in your field or to society in general.

Thinking Beyond IRB Requirements

Every research study involving participants should follow informed consent guidelines. Study participants should always fully understand that their participation is voluntary and that they can withdraw from the study at any time. Study participants should understand potential risks and benefits. Other elements of ethical research include:

  • Upholding confidentiality and privacy.
  • Keeping confidential records secure.
  • Identifying and avoiding professional conflicts of interest.

The College of Doctoral Studies at Grand Canyon University requires that all of our learners abide by the strictest standards of ethical research and that they remain in full compliance with all applicable regulations. Our Institutional Review Board thoroughly evaluates every research proposal. If you are interested in pursuing a PhD, EdD or DBA program, click on the Request More Information button at the top of the page.


  • “Institutional Review Boards Frequently Asked Questions.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Retrieved from: fda.gov/RegulatoryInformation/Guidances/ucm126420.htm

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.