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Human Subjects

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About research

Research is a method of searching for and gathering information in order to answer a question or solve a problem.  Research studies that involve human participants are conducted in all areas of scientific and academic disciplines and focus on human behavior, educational mechanisms, social issues, and diagnosis and treatment of disease, among other things.  Research is an important way for scientists to learn about and test new equipment, procedures, and medical therapies.  Most research is conducted with the help of volunteers who agree to participate in research and offer their time and personal information to scientists.

Federal law requires all research with human participants be reviewed by a committee of individuals called an Institutional Review Board (IRB).  The IRB ensures that research participants are protected and that research is conducted in an ethical manner. The IU IRBs provide this review for all research conducted at IU and our affiliates.

If you are interested in participating in the IRB process, please contact irb@iu.edu.

Before you participate

Before you participate in research, you must agree to participate, or provide informed consent.  During the informed consent process, researchers educate potential research participants about a specific research project and ask them whether they want to participate in the research.

Informed consent can be a very simple process, such as reading a paragraph of information before taking a survey, but may be more complicated, depending on the research.  For example, medical research projects often involve a face-to-face conversation with the research team before you can agree to participate.  Regardless of the type of research, you should understand several things before you participate:

  • The purpose of the research
  • What will be done to you as part of the research
  • Whether or not you will benefit from participating in research
  • Whether the research might expose you to risk
  • How long the study will last
  • What the researchers will do with your information

How to participate

Research studies that are searching for volunteers may post flyers or run television or radio ads to let potential volunteers know that research participation opportunities are available. If you are a medical patient of IU or one of its affiliates, your care provider may tell you about a research study and ask if you are interested in participating. You are never required to participate in research and declining or withdrawing from research will never affect your relationship with your care provider.

It is important for research participants to remember that, even if a research study involves treatment, research is not designed to treat medical conditions. Instead, research is designed to test new methods that may or may not be effective. Some biomedical research may include aspects of medical treatment as a part of testing whether new medicines, procedures, equipment, or therapies are safe or effective for treating, diagnosing, preventing, or caring for people with specific illnesses or conditions.  A normal medical treatment plan is created in tandem by a patient and his/her physician or care provider and can be changed at any time based on how the treatment affects the patient. In a research study, participants receive procedures and medical therapies based on the research plan; the participant and the research scientist cannot change the research plan. Be sure to talk with your care provider and understand your treatment options before agreeing to participate in research.

If you are interested in participating in research at IU, consider joining the list of volunteers at INresearch.org or search the list of open studies provided by the Indiana CTSI.

If you have questions about research

If you have any questions regarding your rights as a research subject or your participation in research, please contact the Human Subjects Office at (800) 696-2949 or the numbers below. A staff member will do everything possible to help you resolve the issue and will take additional action if necessary.

You may also contact the IU Anonymous Reporting Hotline at
https://secure.ethicspoint.com/domain/media/en/gui/17361/index.html or (888) 236-7542.

Contact the Human Subjects Office

  • Bloomington

Human Subjects Office
Office of Research Compliance
Indiana University
Carmichael Center, Room 203
530 E. Kirkwood Avenue
Bloomington, Indiana 47408

Phone: (812) 856-4242

  • Indianapolis

Human Subjects Office
Office of Research Compliance
Indiana University
Lockefield Village, 3rd Floor
980 Indiana Avenue
Indianapolis, Indiana 46202

Phone: (317) 274-8289

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