A faculty sponsor must sign off on student research submitted to the Institutional Review Board (IRB). This can include research related to dissertations or masters theses. Faculty sponsors guide student investigators through every phase of the IRB process. The sponsor should be the primary resource when investigators have questions or need assistance with their projects. Faculty sponsors must be familiar with various study methods and informed of the rules and regulations governing research. Faculty sponsors are typically responsible for:

Understanding institutional policies and procedures, and the published guidelines for the ethical conduct of research relevant to the field of inquiry, including state and federal regulations

  • Studies vary and IRB administrators rely on faculty sponsors to guide the student investigator in approaches that are based on their field of study—including the study methods and justifications for research.

Ensuring the student investigator has sufficient knowledge and experience to conduct the proposed research

  • Faculty sponsors serve as the first point of contact for student investigators. They evaluate and ensure the student can communicate their research interests to an IRB reviewer who aims to protect participants and research subjects who need to know what is expected of their participation in the study.

Reading and approving the proposed IRB student application and supplementary materials before it is formally submitted to the IRB office

  • IRB administrators are expecting that a submitted student IRB protocol is in its final stage, free of typos, or grammatical issues, and includes all relevant supporting materials (e.g., informed consent, recruitment script, etc.). Faculty sponsors serve an important role in reading and approving the proposed student application to ensure it is complete and ready for IRB submission.

Guiding the student throughout the duration of the study

  • The faculty sponsor provides ongoing monitoring of the project and offers guidance by making adequate time to consult with the student investigator on a regular basis. The faculty sponsor also ensures that the proposed research is not currently underway, and will not begin until written approval from the IRB has been obtained.

Engaging with the student during research challenges

  • If a problem occurs while conducting the study, the faculty sponsor may also assist and supervise the student investigator in problem solving to address the issue, or help when a protocol deviation occurs.

To summarize, a faculty sponsor works with IRB administrators to support student researchers and help them craft a research protocol that is both ethical and feasible. Students often need extra attention as they navigate an IRB protocol, especially if this is their first time. A faculty sponsor plays an essential role within student research.