We need the help of our community! The University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW) has two committees with eight separate panels that review research with human participants. We are looking for individuals interested in partnering with UW to protect the rights and welfare of our research participants by serving as affiliated or “unaffiliated” members.

IRB members come from a variety of backgrounds, including both scientific and non-scientific. Each member brings their unique perspective to the IRB, allowing for a better and more thorough review of research proposals.

Interested? Request more information by emailing the IRB Directors at irbdirector@hsirb.wisc.edu or give us a call at 608-262-1980. We would love to hear from you to express your interest or with any questions you may have!

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Under federal law, Institutional Review Boards (called “IRBs”) must be established at institutions like UW to review research with human participants. The IRB is responsible for protecting the rights and welfare of research participants. Most federally supported research and all research evaluating drugs and devices subject to Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) requirements must be reviewed and approved by an IRB. By law, one member of the committee must not be affiliated with the university.

The UW has lots of studies involving human participants. This could include studies of medical information, testing new drugs or devices, evaluating how behavioral changes effect health, or testing the success of new education methods.

Together with the university, you can participate with other members who are looking out for the welfare of our research participants.

Roles & Responsibilities

IRB members serve the vital function of protecting the rights, safety, and welfare of our research participants. Members come from a variety of scientific and non-scientific backgrounds, as well as a diversity of race, gender, and cultural backgrounds. Members review research proposals, attend committee meetings once per month (via Zoom), and participate in the discussion of research involving human participants.

Affiliated members are employees or volunteers (besides serving as an unaffiliated IRB member) of UW or organizations for which UW serves as the primary IRB of record (e.g., UW Health) and include full and part-time employees, current students, members of any governing panel or board of the institution, and consultants. Our members come from across the institution and have a wide variety of backgrounds including in healthcare, education, and the social sciences.

The unaffiliated member plays an important role on the IRB, adding a diversity of experiences and perspectives to the committee. They bring fresh insight to the review of human research and provide a perspective that other board members may not have. The unaffiliated member has the particular responsibility of bringing the perspective of the community, including the volunteer research participant, to the review of research projects. Additionally, the unaffiliated member may be (but is not required to be) a non-scientist, which is another role required for the committee.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an Institutional Review Board?

An Institutional Review Board (or “IRB”) is a committee that is required under federal law at research institutions like UW. The IRB has at least five members.  There must be one non-scientist and one unaffiliated member.  These may be the same person.  Additionally, the committee must be made up of a diversity of members who bring different perspectives and expertise. This includes a diversity of race, gender, and cultural backgrounds and sensitivity to such issues as community attitudes.  UW’s IRBs also include scientists and healthcare providers with expertise in the type of research conducted at the university.UW has two IRBs: the Health Sciences (HS) IRB and the Minimal Risk Research (MRR) IRB. There are eight “panels” (6 panels for the HS-IRB and 2 for the MRR-IRB), each of which meets once per month.

What is the IRBs role?

The IRB’s role is to review human research studies before they are conducted, as well as changes to those studies, for the purpose of safeguarding the rights and welfare of human research participants.

What does “unaffiliated” mean?

The unaffiliated member must not be an employee or student of the university. The unaffiliated member also must not have immediate family members (parents, spouses or children) who are employees or students of the university. Some types of affiliations are ok. The unaffiliated member and their immediate family members may be past or current patients, past or current research participants, infrequent or small donors to the UW, former students, or former or retired employees who are not receiving compensation from the university. The unaffiliated or community member plays an important role on the IRB, adding a diversity of experiences and perspectives to the committee. They bring fresh insight to the review of human research and provide a perspective that other board members may not have.

Does the unaffiliated member need to be a scientist or healthcare provider?

No. In fact, most unaffiliated members are non-scientists, another required role for the IRB. The IRB has other members who are scientists or healthcare providers whose role is to provide expertise in the type of research that is conducted at the university.

What requirements are there for IRB members?

Members attend one committee meeting per month, via Zoom. As such, members should have some comfort using a computer, reading electronic documents, and complecting electronic forms. Most meetings begin at 3:30 p.m. and last about 1.5 hours. Members may also be assigned to review a specific study or studies at the meeting, along with another IRB member. In this case, the IRB member would be expected participate in the discussion about that study or studies. All member’s perspective are encouraged and welcomed for other studies discussed at the meeting as well.

Will there be training for the IRB member?

Yes, there is lots of training for our IRB members. Members are trained both on the points the committee is required by law to consider for each study (for example, whether consent is appropriately obtained or whether the selection of participants is equitable), as well as on the electronic system used by researchers to submit studies to the IRB. IRB staff attend meetings to help ensure the committee addresses those aspects of a study it needs to and are always available for questions. New members also attend meetings as guests to get a sense of how meetings occur before joining a panel.

When are the meetings and how long are they?

Meeting dates are available here. Meetings usually last about 1.5 hours. Members attend one panel meeting per month.

How much time does it take to be a member?

Members attend one meeting per month. Preparation time can depend upon how many studies a member is assigned to review. However, meetings typically run about 1.5 hours and preparation time could be around one to two hours.

Will I be paid?

With the exception of our Chair and Vice Chair who have additional duties, this is a volunteer position. We conduct our meetings via Zoom; as such, members do not incur transportation or parking costs.

How long would I be expected to serve?

We hope our IRB members serve for at least three years. Some members leave sooner, and some members stay longer because they enjoy their role on the committee.

Additional Resources