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School & Program Updates

School & Program Updates

SDSU Engages Institutional Review Boards to Develop Brief, Community-responsive Human Subjects Training

One of the key features of community-based participatory research (CBPR) approaches is the development of an equitable community-academic research partnership, where both partners contribute substantially to the development of the project and co-own the data and results. Before research can take place, all members of a team must receive certification in the protection of human subjects. This is a necessary, but often time intensive process that can be an impediment to the progress of CBPR projects. Furthermore, although online trainings exist (which can be completed at one’s leisure), the content is often directed towards academic audiences, and cover a wider range of ethical and research issues than community partners will typically encounter in a specific project. Identifying ways to provide brief, responsive trainings in protection of human subjects may enable projects to meet research goals in the face of deadlines, fiscal constraints, and competing responsibilities.

In order to create a means to train community partners efficiently, Dr. Jerel Calzo (associate professor of health promotion and behavioral science, SDSU Graduate School of Public Health) collaborated with the Institutional Review Board (IRB) of Boston Children’s Hospital to develop a brief workshop to introduce the basics of protection of human subjects. Through discussing the basic study design and clarifying the roles and responsibilities that the academic and community partners would take on during the course of the project, Dr. Calzo and the IRB administrators developed a 2-hour-long group discussion-based human subjects training that covered key features of protection of human subjects that are generally covered in online trainings (e.g., Belmont Report; definition of confidentiality; conflicts of interest). The training also included vignettes of potential events that could arise in the course of the specific proposed study. Interviews with trainees and facilitators after the training indicated that the training was enjoyable and easier to schedule into their work day. The trainees appreciated the use of the vignettes which allowed them to apply the new knowledge to the specific study at hand. Since developing the training, the IRB noted that the training could easily be tailored to include vignettes that apply to a wide range of populations, research designs, and study questions, and has since developed a curriculum document to assist in the training of community partners for CBPR projects. More research should formally compare this training to other education alternatives (e.g., in-person lecture-based instruction; online training via CITI). For those interested in obtaining a copy of the curriculum document (Community Partner Human Subjects Training Guide), please e-mail, or visit