Hundreds of students at my institution participate in Alternative Spring Break and Alternative Winter Break each year. Frequently, they create posters of their experiences to share with other students afterward.

This year, we are contemplating assisting group leaders with academic (literature) research related to their respective trips, with an eye toward creation of a more formal paper or poster related to their experiences. This would be presented at our annual student research symposium.

  • Would the students need IRB approval for this?
  • Does it depend on what organizations they’re working with, or what
    kind of information they include in their presentations? That is, if
    it looks more like journalism or self-reflection rather than
    “research” would it be exempt?
  • If the answer is that they definitely
    would need IRB approval in all cases, should they already have been
    getting approval for their less-formal poster presentations?

I’m hoping the answers to these question would also be applicable to students who write about internships and other extra-curricular activities. Also, in case it isn’t clear, I am interested in this from the perspective of advisors and administrators, rather than from that of the student.

Edit: What I’m really interested in is whether it is generally the case that informal “publication” via something like an on-campus, but out-of-class, presentation or an electronic portfolio triggers IRB requirement for things like internship write-ups or class projects that traditionally would be exempt. I’m interested in what other institutions do about this.

Their actual research will just be a review of literature.

(The suggestion to ask our IRB would make sense, except that we’re so small and do so little research as a liberal arts school that we have only had our own board for a few years, and I’m not sure how comfortable they are with cases at the edges.)

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