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Institutional Review Board on Human Subjects Research (IRB)

Conducting Human Subjects Research during COVID-19

As Salisbury University resumes in person activities (including research) on campus during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Office of Graduate Studies and Research (GSR), along with the Institutional Review Board (IRB) advise all human subject researchers who seek to resume in-person research to ensure these activities are consistent with Salisbury University and University System of Maryland (USM) policies along with local, state and federal directives. Research in community settings and community-based research is also allowed to resume. Researchers must follow all guidelines set by the collaborating entity (e.g., school, nursing home, community center, etc.). A letter from the collaborating entity is required stating that Salisbury University researchers are permitted to conduct studies in their facilities. This letter must be included in your IRB application. Additionally, for those conducting virtual research, it is critically important to continue conducting these activities in the safest and most effective manner possible. Below are some general guidelines for face-to-face and virtual research activities.

Guidelines for researchers conducting one-to-one interactions

  1. Follow the applicable institutional policies and guidelines along with local, State, and federal directives regarding required safety measures during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  2. Limit close physical interactions among all individuals involved in human subjects research to the minimum necessary for conducting the research (or the study).
  3. Maintain physical distancing and face covering for all participants.
  4. Anticipate and plan for unintended but possible events, given that human subject research is complex and diverse and that future restrictions are always possible based on public health concerns.
  5. Provide documented clear communication to all human subjects of the health and safety procedures taken by the research team and for themselves prior to, during and after their study encounters.
  6. Prioritize the physical and emotional health and safety of our campus community, our visitors, and our human research participants. Only re-initiate, or begin, in-person research when processes are in place to ensure appropriate safety precautions.

Tips for researchers who wish to conduct focus groups or other activities with multiple participants

  1. Maintain physical distancing and face covering for all participants based on room size and appropriate number(s) of participants.
  2. Contact the appropriate school Dean to secure the maximum capacity numbers for conducting these group activities in SU facilities (classrooms, labs, sim center etc.). If this information is not available from the school Dean, then researchers should contact the Office of Environmental Health and Safety to determine capacity.
  3. Ensure that letters of support/collaboration provide information about room capacity, participant numbers, room access, etc. for any proposed research locations away from the SU campus.

Guidelines for researchers conducting research virtually

Researchers have latitude how to present information to participants. Reminders can be part of consent discussions, can be included as a reminder in the information letter/consent form, or as a reminder at the beginning of the interview, the goal of the guidance is to remind researchers and participants that virtual settings include additional privacy concerns. Please also see information below for additional tips to maintain security and privacy:

  1. The primary platform for conducting research interviews, meetings, etc. in a virtual setting should be ZOOM. The IRB stresses the need for the Principal Investigator to ensure (at least) the following when utilizing Zoom technology and beyond:
    1. Participants are reminded to protect their privacy by completing activities in a private space, to ensure conversations are not overheard;
    2. Participants are encouraged to disable “cookies” and close device browser;
    3. Participants are told how and where Zoom recordings are saved;
    4. Investigators should use Zoom provided by Salisbury University (safety features built within), as other platforms may have limitations;
    5. Investigators must share Zoom recordings in a safe, private area/way that only research staff can access.
  2. Security Tips for Researchers Using Zoom
    1. When scheduling your meeting
      • Generate a unique meeting ID.
      • Require a meeting password and distribute the password to only those who need access.
      • Enable the waiting room feature (available under Meeting Options).  This will allow the host to grant access to those participants who should be part of the meeting/class.
    2. During your meeting:
      • Remove and or manage participants.
      • Lock your meeting once all your participants have joined to avoid uninvited guests.
      • Keep control of your screen. Currently this is a default setting for your SU Zoom account, but if you need to allow someone to share their screen, you can do so by making them a co-host.
      • If recording videos, avoid using the Zoom Cloud Recording Storage. Instead use the Local Storage option, which stores the recordings on your own device (i.e., laptop or computer).
    3. More tips here:
  3. Maintaining Privacy with Zoom
    • For the Host/Researcher - Go to Zoom Settings section. Under the Telephone subtab: Enable Mask phone number in the participant list. When scheduling a meeting, turn off “video” for participants.
    • For the Participant - When the participant joins a Zoom meeting, they will see a screen “Join a Meeting.” and a box with their name in it. They can change their name in the box before joining a meeting to maintain anonymity.

Guidelines for researchers working with children in a virtual setting

  1. Please review all information found in the IRB website section “ Research with Children & Adolescents.”
  2. Additional protections for younger children in a virtual research setting are addressed in the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). COPPA includes certain requirements for operators of websites and/or online services in order to protect the privacy and online safety of children under 13 years of age.

Tips for Data Management and Storage

  1. SU faculty, staff and students are allowed to store and process FERPA protected materials with the exception of Personal Identifiable Information (PII) in OneDrive/Email/Teams accounts hosted by SU Office 365.
  2. It is important not to save Social Security numbers or Financial information such as credit cards/bank account numbers. SU’s Information Technology staff annually certify with Microsoft the security features.
  3. Anything other than PII is protected via an audit/security perspective within SU OneDrive/Email/Teams or other Office 365 features
  4. It is much more desirable for SU employees and students to use SU services versus other unmanaged cloud services such as personal OneDrive, Google Drives, Dropbox, Box etc.

Updated: October 1, 2020

Salisbury University’s Institutional Review Board on Human Subjects Research (IRB) provides guidance to faculty, staff, and students conducting research with human participants. SU’s IRB independently reviews and assesses proposed research to ensure the safety and welfare of human subject participants. The IRB also works collaboratively with researchers to ensure that federal and state regulations are being followed.

Providing opportunities for student research for all majors

SU’s IRB operates under the key principles of the Belmont Report…

  • Respect for Persons is the first principle which mandates that subjects voluntarily consent to participate in research, that they are adequately and thoroughly informed about the research and what is required, and that their privacy and confidentiality are protected.
  • Beneficence is the second principle which mandates the risks of research are justified by potential benefits to the individual or society and that those risks are minimized.
  • Justice is the third and final principle which mandates the equitable distribution of risks and benefits among those who may benefit from the research, meaning that one subset of a population should not take on all the burden of risk and reap all of the rewards; risks and rewards should be applicable and available to all subsets of a community.

SU’s IRB Mission Statement

Federal Code Protection of Human Subjects

Common Rule Statement