Insitutional Review Board COVID-19 Response Information

(Updated July 2, 2020)

The 2019 novel coronavirus is impacting our communities, and the University of St. Thomas IRB places the health of all individuals as a priority. Any 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. Any researcher or research team found in violation of this requirement will be investigated by the IRB, which has the authority to suspend research with human subjects. 

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

Online research, such as online surveys and interviews conducted through video or telephone meetings, and digital data collection that do not require person-to-person contact may take place. This includes online surveys and interviews conducted via Zoom or other secure video software. Limited research which cannot feasibly be done online, such as research which must take place in a lab or involved equipment, can occur with IRB office approval. 

Submit an Application to Amend Previously Approved Research explaining all changes and 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. 

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. 

Yes, the IRB office is operating as usual from a remote setting. The board will meet remotely if projects requiring full review are submitted.

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. 

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.