Is My Project Subject to IRB Review?

Are you wondering if you need IRB approval? If any aspect of your work involves research with human subjects and you work for the WVDE, these aspects of your work must be reviewed and approved by the WVDE IRB! It is very important for you to understand what we mean by the terms "research" and "human subjects."

In congruence with the federal regulations, the WVDE defines the term research as “any systematic investigation, including research development, testing and evaluation, designed to develop or contribute to generalizable knowledge. Activities that meet this definition constitute research for purposes of the HHS regulations, whether or not they are conducted or supported under a program, which is considered research for other purposes.”
Human subjects
The WVDE defines the term human subject as “a living individual about whom an investigator (whether professional or student) conducting research obtains 1) data through intervention or interaction with the individual or 2) identifiable private information.”

Note that, even if you are using a survey or other form of data collection, a project may not be considered research if it is not designed to develop or contribute to generalizable knowledge. A good example is an event evaluation form. If you are using this form only for quality control purposes, your project may not meet the definition of research. However, if you are using the results to generalize about the quality of your professional development and to report those results to some audience, your project may be considered research.

The following resources are available to help you determine if your project meets these conditions.

Resource Description A decision tree provided by the Office of Human Research Protection.
Data Sharing and IRB Cabinet Presentation Sept 25 2012 Two hypothetical projects with alternate scenarios that may/may not cause them to be considered "research."

Important Information for WVDE Employees

If you have any doubts about whether or not your project involves research or human subjects, please contact the IRB Chairperson (Pat Hammer) to discuss your project prior to requesting an IRB review or commencing the project (email:, phone: 304.558.2546)