A Cross Sectional Survey of Recruitment Practices, Supports, and Perceived Roles for Unaffiliated and Non-scientist Members of IRBs

Stuart G. Nicholls, Holly A. Taylor, Richard James, Emily E. Anderson, Phoebe Friesen, Toby Schonfeld, Elyse I. Summers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) are federally mandated to include both nonscientific and unaffiliated representatives in their membership. Despite this, there is no guidance or policy on the selection of unaffiliated or non-scientist members and reports indicate a lack of clarity regarding members’ roles. In the present study we sought to explore processes of recruitment, training, and the perceived roles for unaffiliated and non-scientist members of IRBs. Methods: We distributed a self-administered REDCap survey of members of the Association for the Accreditation of Human Research Protection Programs familiar with IRB member recruitment. The survey included closed and open-ended questions regarding: the operation of the HRPP/IRB(s), how unaffiliated and non-scientist members are recruited, whether they had faced challenges recruiting for these roles, and training and mentorship offered. The survey also collected information regarding the perceived value and roles of unaffiliated and non-scientist members. Results: 76 responses were included in the analysis (38% completion rate). The most common approach for recruitment was referral from current IRB members, with almost half of respondents indicating challenges recruiting unaffiliated members. Over 75% indicated no additional training was provided to unaffiliated or non-scientist members compared to affiliated or scientist members. Most common supports provided were travel/parking expenses and honoraria. Commonly perceived roles were to provide an independent voice from the participant perspective, notably regarding consent processes and materials. Conclusions: Respondents indicated challenges in defining unaffiliated and non-scientist members and limited practices toward recruitment and support. Future work should more closely examine the challenges in defining these roles and applying the definitions in practice, as well as strategies that may improve recruitment and retention of unaffiliated and non-scientist members.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAJOB Empirical Bioethics
StateAccepted/In press - 2023


  • Institutional Review Board
  • Survey
  • non-scientist
  • research ethics
  • unaffiliated

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Philosophy
  • Health Policy


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