The Institutional Review Board (IRB) is not a college committee in the usual sense. Rather, the IRB is subject to the regulations of a federal agency: the Office for Human Research Protections (OHRP) within the Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS). The Federal Policy for the Protection of Human Subjects (a.k.a. “the Common Rule,” as revised in 2017 and updated in 2018*) requires that all research on human subjects must be reviewed in advance by an IRB to ensure it is consistent with ethical standard. Like many other institutions, Carleton College has filed a “Federal Wide Assurance” (FWA) with the Department of Human Health and Services stating that the College will comply with federal standards on all research with human subjects (whether or not directly funded by federal government). While administrators of the College might be able to restrict a research project that has received IRB approval, they may not overturn an IRB decision to disapprove a research project. However, it is the intent of the IRB to work with investigators to mutually agree on a protocol that will receive IRB approval.

 * The federal Department of Human Health and Services has issued revisions to the federal Common Rule on the Protection of Human Subjects, which were implemented on January 21, 2019. 

IRB Composition

The Carleton IRB includes an Associate Dean of the College (serving ex-officio), at least one staff member, and one community member with no other Carleton affiliations (e.g., who is not an employee or student and is not a member of the immediate household of an employee or student). At least four are members of the faculty. The committee must include at least one scientist and one non-scientist. (For the purposes of this committee, faculty from the Psychology Department are treated as scientists.) The Faculty Affairs Committee appoints the faculty members, while the Dean of the College appoints the staff and community members. All members serve three-year staggered and renewable terms. Efforts should be made to have a balance of gender, ethnicity, and disciplinary specialties on the Board. The Chair of the Board is selected by the Dean of the College and serves a one-year term, which is renewable.

Members of the Carleton IRB, 2020-21:

  • Eric Alexander (Assistant Professor of Computer Science)
  • Anita Chikkatur (Associate Professor of Educational Studies)
  • Laura Clemens (Associate Director of the Career Center)
  • Pamela Feldman-Savelsberg (Broom Professor of Social Demography and Anthropology)
  • Gretchen Hofmeister (Associate Dean of the College, ex officio)
  • Paula Lackie (Academic Technologist, ex officio)
  • Justin London (IRB Chair and Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Music, Cognitive Science, and the Humanities)
  • Kari Nelson (Community Member)
  • Paul Petzschmann (Lecturer and Research Associate in European Studies)
  • Lisa Pillow (Collections Strategy and Development Librarian)
  • Patrick Thompson (Director of Prospect Research) 

Any questions can be referred to the IRB chair, Justin London, Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Music, Cognitive Science, and the Humanities, at 507-222-4397 or 1 N. College Street (4 – Music), Northfield, MN 55057.

Learn More

For historical background on the development of this entire field, a video titled “Protecting Human Subjects” was distributed to department chairs and program heads in the spring of 2002. Two copies are also available in the office of the Perlman Center for Learning & Teaching (room 146, Weitz Center for Creativity). This video discusses the evolution of federal and professional standards and explains how IRBs generally work.

The National Institutes of Health have published a useful training module that provides investigators with a basic introduction to the principles of ethical research on human subjects.

In addition, a variety of helpful materials may be found at the United States Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS) Office of Human Research Protections.