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|Research Involving Human Subjects|
|Regulations, Policies & Guidance|
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|NIH Staff FAQs|
Last Revised: October 7, 2010
||Related NIH Staff FAQs|
OHRP recommends that institutions adopt clear procedures under which the IRB (or some authority other than the investigator) determines whether proposed research is exempt from the human subjects regulations [see 45 CFR 46.101(b)]. Documentation should include the specific category justifying the exemption. (http://www.hhs.gov/ohrp/polciy/irbgd107.html).
Because NIH does not require IRB approval at time of application, claimed exemptions often represent the opinion of the PI, and justification provided for the exemption(s) by the Principal Investigator is evaluated during the peer review process.
HHS regulations state:
Research involving the use of educational tests (cognitive, diagnostic, aptitude, achievement), survey procedures, interview procedures or observation of public behavior, unless:
(i) information obtained is recorded in such a manner that human subjects can be identified, directly or through identifiers linked to the subjects; and
(ii) any disclosure of the human subjects' responses outside of the research could reasonably place the subjects at risk of criminal or civil liability or be damaging to the subjects' financial standing, employability, or reputation 46.101(b)(2)
HHS regulations state: Research involving the collection or study of existing data, documents, records, pathological specimens, or diagnostic specimens, if these sources are publicly available or if the information is recorded by the investigator in such a manner that subjects cannot be identified, directly or through identifiers linked to the subjects 46.101(b)(2).
If you receive or have access to existing individually identifiable private information or identifiable specimens from living individuals (e.g., pathology or medical records), you are conducting human subjects research. If you as the investigator or your collaborator record the information in such a manner that you cannot subsequently access or obtain direct or indirect identifiers that are linked to the subjects, research activities that involve data recorded in this manner meets the requirements of Exemption 4. If you will retain or can access any identifiers, the research project is not exempt under Exemption 4.
Yes. Research that meets the criteria for Exemption 4 is Human Subjects Research.
Exemption 4 includes research involving the collection or study of existing data, documents, records, pathological specimens, or diagnostic specimens, if these sources are publicly available or if the information is recorded by the investigator in such a manner that subjects cannot be identified, directly or through identifiers linked to the subjects.
Please note: human subjects research that meets the criteria for Exemption 4 is not considered “clinical research” as defined by NIH; therefore, the NIH policies for addressing inclusion of women, minorities and children do not apply to research that is determined to meet the criteria for Exemption 4.
The humans subjects regulations decision charts from the Office of Human Research Protection (OHRP) will help you to see whether your research falls under the human subjects regulations and if so, whether it meets the criteria for Exemption 4.
Please note: OHRP advises that investigators should not have the authority to make an independent determination that research involving human subjects is exempt. OHRP guidance states that Exemptions should be independently determined. Institutions often designate their IRB to make this determination. Because NIH does not require IRB approval at time of application, the exemptions designated in Item 4a often represent the opinion of the Principal Investigator, and the justification(s) provided by the Principal Investigator for the exemption(s) is/are evaluated during peer review.
It depends: Specimens that would have otherwise been discarded do not automatically meet the requirements for E4. In order for the research to meet E4, such samples MUST either be BOTH existing AND publicly available or BOTH existing AND unidentifiable to all members of the research team.
Provide any and all information you have about the sample, but there is no need to obtain additional, potentially identifiable, information for the NIH population sample information requirement that is not needed for your proposed studies.
Exemption 4 applies to retrospective studies of specimens and/or data that have already been collected. The materials must be “on the shelf” (or in the freezer) at the time the protocol is submitted to the IRB or other designated officials at your institution to determine whether the research is indeed exempt. Research that involves the ongoing collection of specimens and/or data does not meet the criteria for Exemption 4, even if they were destined to be discarded.
This language in the regulation was intended to apply to public sources of data, such as census data. Its meaning with respect to human tissue specimens is widely debated. Although there are organizations that make human cells and tissues broadly accessible to the research community, these materials are not usually available to the public at large and are not generally considered to be publicly available.
Examples of identifiers, would include names, social security numbers, medical record numbers, pathology accession numbers, or any other “codes” that permits specimens or data to be linked to individually identifiable living individuals and perhaps also to associated medical information.
Exemption 6 (E6) states that research is exempt from the Regulatory requirements if the only involvement of human subjects is:
“(6) Taste and food quality evaluation and consumer acceptance studies,