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Tsan MF, Ling B, Feske U, Zickmund S, Stone R, Sonel A, Arnold RM, Fine M, Hall DE. Assessing the Quality and Performance of Institutional Review Boards: Levels of Initial Reviews. Journal of empirical research on human research ethics : JERHRE. 2020 Dec 1; 15(5):407-414.
How well institutional review boards (IRBs) follow Common Rule criteria for levels of initial protocol review has not been systematically evaluated. We compared levels of review as determined using the Office for Human Research Protections (OHRP) human subject regulations decision charts of 313 protocols that had been approved by IRBs. There was a 97.8% agreement between 140 protocols that were reviewed by full board and the levels of review according to OHRP criteria. Likewise, there was a 93.8% agreement between 113 protocols that were reviewed using an expedited review procedure and OHRP criteria. However, there was only 75% agreement for exempt protocols. Specifically, 10 (16.7%) of the 60 exempt protocols were found to require IRB review, that is, six protocols requiring expedited review and four protocols requiring full board review. Conducting non-exempt research without prior IRB approval constitutes serious noncompliance. Our data suggest that exempt protocols need more scrutiny.