Human Subjects Research

The Evergreen State College values the knowledge that can be gained from study about living human beings. We also recognize a profound responsibility to protect the people who participate in these research projects. The college's Institutional Review Board seeks to provide clear policy and comprehensive information to safeguard the welfare, rights, and privacy of all persons who participate as human subjects of research.

What Research Requires Human Subjects Review

Systematic and generalizable collection of private, personally-identifiable information about living human beings must be reviewed before you begin research. Learn more about these criteria.

Undergraduate students and their faculty should review the Guidelines for Student Work with Human Subjects for special considerations.

The slide presentation Human Subjects Review at Evergreen (PDF) includes an historical overview and procedural details.

Ethical Research Design

Researchers and the institutions that support them must protect the human beings they study from harm according to three widely accepted principles from the United States government's Belmont Report:

  • Beneficence. Research can bring financial, social, emotional, physical and other harms to participants. Researchers must take care to prevent harm and to ensure that risks to human beings are justified by the potential benefits of the research. Read more about risk.
  • Respect for persons.  People who participate as research subjects need to be properly informed and give their consent.  Special care must be taken for individuals with diminished autonomy, such as children, prisoners, and the mentally disabled. Read more about informed consent.
  • Justice. Justice requires that the risks and benefits of research are distributed equally among those who may benefit. Groups that could realize good from particular research should not be excluded from participation in it, and no group should be targeted for convenience.

Many—though not all—projects that collect private information or data about living human beings require advance review and approval. The college has a human subjects research policy as well as an institutional review board (IRB) and staff to review, approve and oversee human subjects research when required. To determine if your project requires a human subjects review, begin by visiting Who Must Apply for Human Subjects Review?

Even if your work does not require human subjects review, the general principles found on these pages will help ensure your project provides adequate protection for the people who participate in your study and provide you information for your work.

Conducting research in tribal communities or on tribal lands

Any human subjects research conducted about tribal communities or on tribal lands requires the approval of the tribe where it takes place as well as meeting Evergreen’s requirements for review. Tribes may also have different or additional requirements for approval. It is the researcher’s responsibility to seek and secure approval from the appropriate tribal authority and to present that approval during the Evergreen human subjects review process. Note: Even projects that normally don’t require human subjects review according to federal law or Evergreen policy may require tribal approval.  Don’t assume; ask the appropriate tribal personnel for permission and follow all protocols before undertaking any kind of research, academic, or creative project in tribal communities. More information about research in Indian Country can be found on the Research Ethics Guides page.

Research not allowed or supported

There are some types of human subjects research that cannot be adequately reviewed and supervised by Evergreen's IRB and the college cannot support or allow them. For a list of disallowed research, visit Human Subjects Research Not Supported by Evergreen's IRB. Investigators must also demonstrate adequate background and experience to ensure adequate protection of subjects as well as the ability to produce beneficial research.

For more information or to report a problem:

The IRB and its staff aim to assist investigators to develop practical strategies and solutions that protect the rights and welfare of research subjects. Additional information is available through the links at left. If you have questions about human subjects research requirements, or you wish to report a problem as a result of participating in a college-sponsored research project, please contact Karen Gaul, IRB administrator, at (360) 867-6009.