Gettysburg College faculty and students are committed to advancing knowledge within their respective academic disciplines. In order to accomplish this goal most effectively, the college community believes that adherence to strict ethical norms is essential. Values such as honesty, respect for the rights and dignity of human beings, and the humane treatment of animals are not only important for living an ethical life but are among the values that underlie excellent research. However, ethical decisions may often be complex when weighing the common good with the integrity of the study and so the College has established the Institutional Review Board (IRB) to ensure that Gettysburg faculty and students have considered all relevant ethical issues when designing and conducting their research.
The Gettysburg College IRB is committed to protecting the rights and welfare of all persons who participate as subjects in projects that may be conducted under its auspices. This includes ensuring that research subjects are fully aware of their rights and of the protections available to them. Further, the IRB is responsible for ascertaining that there is a balance between the potential long-term knowledge gained from any proposed research and any potential risk to the research subjects participating in it.
The two most important documents that guide IRB policies and procedures are the Belmont Report and The Common Rule. The Belmont Report details the ethical principles of (a) Respect for Persons, (b) Beneficence, and (c) Justice, while the Common Rule contains policies that IRBs must follow with regard to such things as organizational structure, documentation, and enforcement. One of the primary ways that IRBs fulfill their mission is by reviewing ongoing research to ensure that it complies with commonly accepted practices and standards as outlined in these two documents.
The Gettysburg College Institutional Review Board reports directly to the Provost who has charged the IRB with the following responsibilities:
- Periodic review of guidelines for conducting research involving humans at Gettysburg College and recommendations for changes
- Education of the community regarding legal requirements and ethics for conducting such research
- Review of requests from outside agencies for research on campus
- Review of research funded by the Federal Government
- Review of research proposals by Gettysburg faculty, students, staff, and college committees
- Consultation with those engaged in on-campus research as needed
- Monitor the information provided to research participants to ensure their informed consent
- Consultation with members of the community who might have complaints or concerns about on-campus research involving human participants
- Ensure that Gettysburg students involved in assisting Gettysburg faculty in NSF-funded research complete training in the responsible conduct of research.
Research conducted under the auspices of Gettysburg College and involving human subjects must be submitted for review to the College's IRB with the exclusion* of the following:
- Institutional Research: Research designed to evaluate internal institutional programs where the results are intended solely for internal college use.
- Classroom Exercises/Student Research: Educational exercises, conducted in and outside the classroom, designed to teach research skills except in cases where dissemination beyond the College is intended. Examples of these exceptions would be conference presentations or research printed in a publication.
- Oral History: Most oral histories have been excluded from oversight by IRBs as they do not meet the technical definition of "research" under federal guidelines. The methodology employed in oral history deals with particular individuals who have played a role in particular historical events and does not seek to establish the types of generalizable principles or laws that characterize the technical definition of research that requires IRB oversight. Please refer to the American Historical Association's statement on this matter as well as reviewing the federal guidelines for exemption to determine if your oral history study is one that must be reviewed by the IRB.
Please note that oral history contrasts with ethnography, most of which is subject to IRB review. Gettysburg College follows the American Anthropological Association in regarding ethnography as meeting the technical definition of "research" requiring IRB oversight.
*Exclusion from IRB review does not imply that researchers are free to ignore ethical considerations. The ethical and legal standards appropriate for one's discipline still apply.