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Human Subjects Research Requirements

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Human subjects research is defined as the systematic investigation of data from living persons to develop or contribute to generalizable knowledge. This can include interviews, ethnographic observations, reviews of existing records, and experimental medical procedures. All human subjects research must follow certain policies to minimize risks to those subjects.

If your research involves human subjects, you must complete the following steps by the time you submit your application for an Undergraduate Research Student Grant:

Determine whether your research requires IRB review

An Institutional Review Board (IRB) is a federally mandated panel that is charged with overseeing the protection of human participants in research. Stanford's IRB procedures are spelled out on the website Human Subjects Research and IRB.

You are required to receive IRB approval before you begin research and it is never granted retroactively. If you do not have IRB approval prior to the start of your research project, you may confront complications down the road (e.g., barred from publishing a paper on your study, etc.). 

Not sure where to begin? Many undergraduates find the "For Non-Medical Researchers" and FAQs sections of the IRB web pages especially helpful.

If you and your faculty mentor are still unsure whether your project requires IRB review, consult with Stanford's IRB:

  • For non-medical research, write to
  • For medical research, write to
  • If Stanford's IRB concludes that your research does not require review, you do not have to submit a Human Subjects Protocol.

Complete the Human Subjects Certification Tutorial

If your project requires IRB review, you must first complete Stanford's online Human Subjects Certification Tutorial (CITI Training).

  • Your certification is valid for three years, and you can do this training early in your project preparation process.
  • Your faculty mentor must also complete the tutorial in order to be your sponsor for the Human Subjects Protocol, so be sure to check with your mentor on their certification status early.
  • Take your CITI Training Tutorial here.

Submit your Human Subjects Protocol before your student grant application

  • Submit your IRB eProtocol here
  • In your VPUE Student Grant application, you must include your IRB eProtocol number and panel review assignment to demonstrate that your eProtocol is under IRB review. 
    • If the Review Committee determines that your project requires IRB Review but you checked 'No,' your grant application may be denied.
  • If you have received email confirmation from a staff member in the Research Compliance Office that states that IRB review is NOT needed for your project, please append that email to your proposal.