The IRB of Oregon State University has found that short, in-person meetings with researchers can result in greater communication, collaboration, and efficiency.

“We’ve received unbelievably positive feedback from researchers about how much easier it is, and they’ve submitted more applications, as a result,” says Jillian Coleman, CIP, human research protection program (HRPP) coordinator at Oregon State University.

Several efficiency improvements have occurred since the change. One is that researchers submit applications that are more thorough and do not need changes. Another is that the quality of the applications has improved so much that scheduled appointments can be cancelled, as no changes are necessary, Coleman says.

The meetings, which are both sit-downs and remote via videoconferencing, are scheduled for a variety of reasons, including the following:

  • pre-submission advising,
  • determining whether IRB oversight is necessary,
  • review of exempt applications,
  • assistance with responses to stipulation notices for expedited or full board reviews, and
  • review of minor revisions to an expedited or full board study.

“We encourage researchers to schedule 30-minute appointments, and we ask them to submit their documents the business day before the appointment,” Coleman says.

All appointments are held on Wednesdays, between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m., or Thursdays, between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. Two or three HRPP coordinators will take the meetings each of those days. “Typically, people can get on the schedule the week they call, but sometimes we’re booked,” Coleman says.

“HRPP administrator Lisa Leventhal came up with the whole process and spends a lot of time thinking about how to make the process more efficient and meaningful for faculty,” Coleman says. “She sat down with all of us about how to come up with the best process.”

Once qualified, the HRPP coordinators are also appointed as IRB members, so when the meeting concerns a minor revision to an expedited or full board study, the HRPP coordinator qualifies as one board member who can review the revision. This improves the IRB’s workflow, reducing the number of revisions that need to be viewed by the full board or sent out to faculty members of the board.

The IRB collects metrics on how long each of the in-person meetings last, and most seem to last 15-20 minutes. This partly is because researchers are asked to respond to questions in advance, Coleman explains.

“For example, in the case of stipulation notices, we ask researchers to submit a draft response the day before the meeting, and then we’ve already devoted approximately a half-hour to our pre-review, so we know what needs to happen,” she says. “We know what changes need to be made and we go through each item, and can say, ‘On line four of page five, this is where you need to make a change.’”

HRPP coordinators also have readily available template language that researchers, who bring their laptops to the meetings, can use as needed.

“Now that all of our coordinators are board members, our goal is to do some sort of process for expedited reviews, as well,” Coleman says. “An initial meeting for an expedited review might take longer than 30 minutes.”

The meetings make the coordinators’ daily work more efficient, and studies move through the review process faster, Coleman notes.

“Before, I’d see an exempt study back and forth, and now it sits on my desk until the 30-minute meeting, and then it’s done,” she says. “Since we have that dedicated time, we can go through them quickly, spending less time on them overall.”

The in-person meetings will continue regardless of how the federal regulations change, Coleman says.

“Depending on the final rule, and our institutional policies, the meetings might evolve into more education than addressing our requested revisions,” she suggests. “We can use these to help researchers learn more about the regulations.”

Some of the 30 minutes already is used for educational purposes, which was one of the goals when the program began, she notes.