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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. Many undergraduates find the "For Researchers" and FAQs sections of the IRB web pages especially helpful.

Not sure where to begin? Start with this helpful resource: Introduction to Stanford's Institutional Review Board.

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

If your project is one that requires IRB Review, you must submit your eProtocol with Stanford IRB before you apply for a student grant. The eProtocol is a detailed plan for conducting your research on human subjects. Click here for an overview of the IRB timeline.

  • You must upload proof that your eProtocol is undergoing review (or has already been approved) with your student grant application for the application to be considered. 
  • At the latest, you must submit your eProtocol by the first day of the same month as your intended Student Grant deadline. 
  • If you will be working on a project that should be covered by your lab or work group's IRB protocol, you must ensure that the IRB approval certificate (Certification of Human Subjects Approvals) has your name on it. If your name is not on the protocol, you need to work closely with your PI to submit this update to the IRB, again no later than the first day of the same month as your intended Student Grant deadline.
  • Submit your eProtocol here