Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) are committee’s that are set up by organizations to review the technical and ethical dimensions of a research or evaluation project. Evaluators often question whether they should put their evaluations to an IRB or not. In the field of academia and research, the answer is a clear - yes. In the field of evaluation, it is less clear. However, if your evaluation is going to directly interview people, especially vulnerable populations (children, prisoners, pregnant women, the disabled) you will likely want to ensure an IRB review of your terms of reference or evaluation protocol.
Often a donor or your own organization will have guidance for you and when you need to submit your evaluation to an IRB.
If you are using publically available data or de-identified data an IRB is often not required.
Do you have any advice for CHOOSING or USING this option?
- Evaluation Brief: Understanding the Institutional Review Board (IRB) - This brief defines an IRB, what it does, details the steps involved to determine if your project's evaluation or funding agency requires an IRB approval, and provides further information about the processes and conditions involved.
- Technical Assistance Brief: When is an IRB Required for Evaluation Activities - This brief is designed to help First 5 Children and Families Commissions and grantees to determine if and when an Institutional Review Board (IRB) is needed for evaluation activities.
With permission from James Bell Associates. (2008). Evaluation Brief: Understanding the IRB. Arlington, VA. January 2008