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✿Blossom✿

[Psych Students] IRB Approval

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Hello folks!

I am an international student who will soon start doing a PhD in psychology in the US. Since I am working in the field of psycholinguistics (language acquisition), I will also have to test native speakers of my language for my research - which means that I will have to regularly travel to my home country to recruit participants there and to conduct research with them. Now, here is the thing. I have met my advisor last week, and among other things, we have also talked about the issue of IRB (Institutional Review Board, aka Ethics Committee) approval for research. In the studies I did for my BA thesis and then for my MA thesis, I have always received an IRB approval from my former institution, and I was thinking that my future studies would be similar, i.e., this time I would get an approval from the IRB of my new university (the one in the US), come back to my home country, and conduct my tests. (I thought no other institutions and bureaucracy in my home country would be involved, because my job basically depends upon contacting the participants (and their parents and teachers) in their nurseries and/or schools and obtaining their approval for testing them. At this point, the IRB approval does only two things: (1) establishes trust with the participants and their legal guardians and (2) saves the university from getting into any trouble over having neglected their legal responsibilities in this regard.)

But my advisor seems to think that getting an IRB approval from my US university may not be sufficient and I might also have to contact local authorities - which I find really confusing. If an IRB approval is required, I think the one that I would obtain from my US university should be enough - and frankly, any other option seems weird to me. Because can you actually get an IRB approval from a university with which you are not affiliated at all??? Are there any international psychology students here who have had to obtain two different IRB approvals from (1) their current university abroad and (2) from a local university in the country where they conducted their research?

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This depends on the school's IRB process, but it doesn't sound all that crazy to me that you need to get some kind of approval not only from your home university but also from some local institution where you're conducting your study. At the very least, you'll need to get your consent forms translated into the local language (I've seen that happen every time there's a speaker of a non-English language involved in the study). When working with vulnerable populations such as children, IRB will often take extra measures to ensure that no harm comes to participants and that recruitment is handled sensitively. This may mean that you need to have a local host or connection -- I've seen that happen too, also e.g. when working with indigenous people. But whatever I've seen or not, the bottom line is that you need to get the approval from your institutional board, and what other schools do will matter very little to them (this, from experience). So just do what they ask, and keep your advisor involved in the process. They will surely have relevant experience, or someone else in your department will.  

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I know this has happened to a classmate of mine who did her M thesis abroad. She had to get both ethical approval back at our school and at the school she did her actual thesis. No data was even collected at my school, but they wouldn't sign off on her thesis anyway. Now her population and experiment were one of those studies with 0 risks, so there was no problem at all though.

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Why don't you ask your IRB? They should have a staff contact.

Personally I wouldn't think approval from a local IRB is required unless you're actually working with that institution in some capacity, or if your local participants (e.g., the school admins) want it.  I'm trying to picture here... someone comes to my university and wants our IRB to review a project because they're recruiting people in our city, but they're otherwise not involving our university at all? Seems strange.

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On 01/04/2018 at 3:56 PM, ✿Blossom✿ said:

(I thought no other institutions and bureaucracy in my home country would be involved, because my job basically depends upon contacting the participants (and their parents and teachers) in their nurseries and/or schools and obtaining their approval for testing them. At this point, the IRB approval does only two things: (1) establishes trust with the participants and their legal guardians and (2) saves the university from getting into any trouble over having neglected their legal responsibilities in this regard.)

But my advisor seems to think that getting an IRB approval from my US university may not be sufficient and I might also have to contact local authorities - which I find really confusing. If an IRB approval is required, I think the one that I would obtain from my US university should be enough - and frankly, any other option seems weird to me. Because can you actually get an IRB approval from a university with which you are not affiliated at all??? Are there any international psychology students here who have had to obtain two different IRB approvals from (1) their current university abroad and (2) from a local university in the country where they conducted their research?

I am speaking as a Canadian (in a Canadian institution) student who has sat on the Canadian School IRB (called REB here); note there are probably differences between countries. 

In our case, you would almost always be required to get IRB approval on the other end.

In fact, to be able to recruit in schools (or even talk to the schools) in Canada, you would need approval from the school boards and they have their own IRB/REBs.

Over here, for students intending to collect data in another country, there must be a local "contact" that is in the form of: i) a researcher / clinical prof or something to that effect who is affiliated with a university, or ii) an authoritative figure that is overseeing your population in some way (e.g., school board; priest of local parish).

For (ii), there might not be an official IRB. For example, if you are recruiting from a remote village where the authority figure is the village chief. Even though there is no official IRB, you still need to get permission of some form.

So, the short answer is: yes, you probably need two IRBs. All the work in my lab that crosses borders requires IRBs/REBs from all institutions and we have collaborations with US universities. Our contact on the other end will either help or do the applications on their end. 

(Also bear in mind depending on the work you do, you might also need additional approval [e.g., FDA; Health Canada]. From your post, I really doubt you need any of that, so just FYI.)

Edit: Yes, as @lewin said, talk to the staff! They are very knowledgeable about the processes and red tape.

Edited by orange turtle

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3 hours ago, orange turtle said:

In fact, to be able to recruit in schools (or even talk to the schools) in Canada, you would need approval from the school boards and they have their own IRB/REBs.

Ahh, good catch. I thought that school boards would want an IRB approval, but didn't consider that they would want approval from a local or their own IRB.

Because of the language comment I also assumed that when OP said "international" they didn't mean Canada. Canada has more restrictive ethics guidelines for psychological research than the USA does (e.g., no such thing as exempt from review), so that might be another reason why local approval might be required - if their guidelines are substantively different than the USA guidelines. (As you know I'm sure, but for the OP.)

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5 hours ago, lewin said:

Because of the language comment I also assumed that when OP said "international" they didn't mean Canada. Canada has more restrictive ethics guidelines for psychological research than the USA does (e.g., no such thing as exempt from review), so that might be another reason why local approval might be required - if their guidelines are substantively different than the USA guidelines. (As you know I'm sure, but for the OP.)

Actually, not all studies require review. I can't tell you the specific details now, though.

Interesting you should mention Canada has more restrictive guidelines, though. I had felt / thought it was the opposite!

For example, if the NIH funds a grant, Canadian REBs are required to review the study at the full board meeting (i.e., it has to be discussed with quorum and not just assigned to reviewers x and y). 

OP: I think the take home message is that without knowing the exact details of your study and the exact details of your international country and the actual work you will do there, it is hard to say exactly what you would need to do. That is something your university's IRB staff can work with you on. It is probably beyond the scope of most of our expertise. Be prepared, though, that you *might* need to apply for additional approval than the IRB of your home university. And, again, the how's and all will be something your IRB staff can help with. Good luck!

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7 hours ago, orange turtle said:

Actually, not all studies require review. I can't tell you the specific details now, though.

Interesting you should mention Canada has more restrictive guidelines, though. I had felt / thought it was the opposite!

Could be a function of our respective fields and I should have qualified that's my experience in social psych. My understanding from colleagues is that in the USA, lots of the minimal risk studies are exempt. Here, even minimal risk has delegated review (e.g., two reviewers) -- at least, across the three institutions where I've been. TBC I don't think this is a bad thing. I hadn't heard of the NIH requirement - that sounds institution-specific because I've never read that in the TCPS, but who knows.

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