The Institutional Review Board (IRB) reviews research with human participants to ensure the dignity, privacy, and wellbeing of individuals are protected. The IRB emphasizes the consent process to support informed participation in research. 

COVID-19 Response Information

(Updated September 17, 2020)

The University of St. Thomas IRB places the health of all individuals as a priority as COVID-19 impacts our communities. All research which can be done remotely must be done in a remote manner. Under limited circumstances, some lab research may begin with IRB office approval. Please review these FAQs prior to submitting your IRB application and contact the IRB office with questions. 

All research that can be done remotely must be completed in a remote setting. This includes all surveys, interviews, recruitment methods, and focus group research which can be completed using survey software and online interview platforms. Only research that cannot be completed online, such as research which requires the use of sensors or other lab equipment, can be approved with permission from the IRB office. Limitations to participant interaction to avoid the spread of COVID-19 remains important. 

Only researchers with permission from the IRB office may apply for in-person research with participants. Applications requesting approval for in-person research must include a COVID-19 safety plan to address the following requirements: 

  • Only one researcher and one participant may meet per research session unless two researchers are required for safety purposes; 
  • Researchers must wash hands before and after a session with a participant; 
  • Hand sanitizer must be used by a participant at the start of a research session;
  • Researchers and participants must take their temperature the same day of the research session and the session must be rescheduled if necessary;
  • Masks must be worn by the researcher and participant throughout the research session; and
  • Classroom and lab spaces and equipment must be cleaned before and after each session in compliance with University cleaning procedures. 

Zoom or other video conferencing software may be used for online interviews. Please consider the following when designing your procedures: 

  • If your project involves sensitive information, contact the IRB office for information about using the HIPAA compliant version of Zoom. 
  • We are finding that when Zoom connections are disrupted during a meeting, the entire recording is lost. Consider using an external device, such as a digital audio recorder or smartphone, to audio record interviews. Test for audio clarity first. 
  • If your project involves sensitive information, the IRB may request that you do not record video in Zoom to provide security for participants. 

Consider the following when planning your consent process: 

  • Send the consent form to your participants before the meeting so the participant has time to read through it prior to the consent discussion.
  • If asking participants to email the consent form back to you, verify that the participant has a way to provide a written signature and scan the completed consent form. Typed signatures are not permissible. 

Submit an Application to Amend Previously Approved Research explaining all changes along with a digital/online consent form in a new package within your project in IRBNet. The IRB has an Online Survey/Instrument Consent Page template for researchers to use for online studies. All forms and templates are available in the IRBNet document library. The IRB will review any Applications to Amend Previously Approved Research as quickly as possible. Visit the amendments webpage for amendment instructions. 

Please email Sarah Muenster-Blakley at muen0526@stthomas.edu to set up an online meeting. Meetings can take place via telephone call, Zoom, or Teams. 

The IRB is continuing to evaluate communication from the University, the State of Minnesota, and our regional and national colleagues to determine when researchers may continue in-person research and recruitment procedures. The IRB office will communicate decisions by email and keep the IRB website current. Currently, online remote/online data collection is allowable for interview and focus group procedures. 

The IRB office has already had studies related to COVID-19 submitted for review and expects several more studies to be submitted. Please contact the IRB office at muen0526@stthomas.edu to determine whether your plans are designated as research and require IRB review.