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Columbia University Human Research Protection Program

Information for Research Subjects

Research at Columbia University

Columbia University is one of the top research institutions in the world. Thousands of studies are conducted by the university's faculty and research staff each year. Much of this research has led to important results that help us lead healthier and better lives.

There are a wide range of areas where research can take place. These areas include research on health and medical issues, and research on ways of learning, and answers to person and social problems.

What Is Research?
Research can be described as an investigation of an issue to learn more about it. It is sometimes funded by the government, private foundations, and/or drug companies with the hope that the new information will be useful to the public and to other researchers.

Some research can only be done with human participants. Some researchers focus on issues related to human behavior or learning and others investigate complex social issues.

Examples of Research Involving People Are:

  • Finding the best ways to reduce child abuse.
  • Developing the best ways to reduce racial and religious intolerance.

What about Research with Children?
It is important that children, as well as adults, be involved in research so that scientists can understand more about the health and behavior of children. The laws and regulations that apply to all research have special rules to protect children. Children under 18 years of age cannot agree to participate in research for themselves.

Parents and/or guardians who are thinking about having their child involved in research are encouraged to talk with the researchers and to ask them as many questions as they may have.

What Is Informed Consent?
Informed consent is a process. People who agree to participate in research must first understand and agree to volunteer based on the information provided to them by the researcher. That information must include details about the research, how long it will last, how many visits it will take, and all the risks and benefits.

The Informed Consent Form must contain the names and phone numbers of the researchers and of the Institutional Review Board so that the participant can ask questions about the research or report any problems.

What is the IRB?

Research in which people will be asked to participate cannot begin until it has been approved by an Institutional Review Board (IRB). This group of people often includes behavioral and social scientists, social workers, other professionals, and people from the local community. They all work together to make sure that human research is well planned and ethical.

The IRB decides, when approving studies, that it is reasonable to ask people whether they want to be involved. Both before and during the research study, the IRB serves to protect the rights and welfare of research participants. It makes sure that any risks in the research study are as small as possible. The IRB also reviews each study while it is going on to make sure volunteers continue to be protected.

Should I Participate in Research?

Why Volunteer for a Research Study?
People have many different reasons for volunteering for a research study. Some of those reasons are to:

  • Help gather information about how people think and behave.
  • Help discover more about how the body and mind work together.

What Questions Should I Consider before Agreeing to Take Part in a Research Study?

  • What could happen to me, good and bad, if I take part in the research?
  • What tests or procedures will be done?
  • What are the risks to me if I decide to participate?
  • What other choices do I have if I decide not to be in this study?
  • If I am injured or suffer an illness because I'm in a study, who will pay the costs that may result?
  • Who will pay for any extra costs related to the study?
  • Will I be charged anything or be paid to be in this study?
  • If I decide to take part, how will this study affect my daily life?
  • How long will this study last?
  • What will happen if I change my mind and want to leave the study?
  • Will I be told the results of the study?
  • Who will find out that I am taking part in this study?
  • What will happen to my personal information?
  • Who will see my study results and any records?
  • If I have any questions, who should I call?


The most important thing to keep in mind is that

If you have any questions about your rights as a participant in a research study, you may contact:
Columbia University Institutional Review Board
615 W. 131st Street, 3rd Floor

New York, NY 10027

Telephone: (212) 851-7040

E-mail: askirb@columbia.edu

University Compliance Hotline


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