The IRB Initiative

An online resource for educators and researchers in policy and management

Jan Blustein, Founding Principal Investigator

Our history: The IRB Initiative began as a series of discussions among NYU/Wagner faculty. We were faced with the need to seek IRB review for some of our work, and wanted to better understand our obligations.

The Issues

This section includes several recent pieces on the apparent mismatch between social science research and the federal regulations/IRB system. It also includes some resources on what does and doesn't fall under IRB purview, and clarification about what it means for research to be "exempt" from the regulations. A separate subsection is devoted to the need for IRB review of classroom projects.

Teaching Material

Here are resources on teaching about ethics and teaching about the IRB system.

Professional Ethics: Beyond the IRB

Much of our professional work does not fall under IRB purview. Yet that work should be conducted in an ethical fashion. This section houses a rich set of Codes of Ethical Conduct from professional organizations. Also included are some resources related to professional issues that are not emphasized in the federal regulations, such as conflict of interest.

What is not on this site

The contents of this website are posted in the spirit of scholarly inquiry. Opinions are those of the authors only, and do not reflect those of the Wagner School or the NYU University Committee on Activities Involving Human Subjects (UCHAIS, NYU's IRB). Readers seeking definitive information about IRB matters should consult with the appropriate authorities at their institution. Those wishing to contribute additional resources or links, and those able to correct mis-information on this site, are invited to contact us at

The Stakeholders

Here we provide an annotated introduction to key agencies and organizations. Also included are statements on the current IRB system by various social science professional organizations.

Why We Are Online

As problems and questions regarding IRB human subjects review have surfaced in schools of policy and management, we have begun to receive requests for information about our experience and knowledge. In order to meet those requests efficiently, and in order to foster dialogue on these important issues, we have created this website.

As visitors to this site will learn, social scientists and educators around the nation are confused, vexed and often stymied by the conflicting messages that they receive about their obligations under the federal regulations. Regulators, ethicists and social scientists are engaged in a dialogue about what the regulations require, and whether and how they can make sense. This website is intended to introduce our colleagues to that dialogue.