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Human Research Protection Program Strengthens Research Support System

In 2015, the Human Research Protection Program (HRPP) was formed as a unit of the Office of Research Integrity (ORI) housed within the Office of Research and Economic Development. The HRPP, in partnership with the Institutional Review Board (IRB) and the research community, is tasked with protecting the rights and welfare of human research participants. ORI’s formation of the HRPP represented significant strides toward strengthening and expanding the infrastructure supporting the research community at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and the its journey to becoming a Top 25 public research institution.

The HRPP provides professional guidance and support to the IRB and investigators conducting human subjects research. The formation of this program allowed the ORI to increase staff from one full-time employee to four: two IRB compliance officers and two IRB compliance specialists. This increase in staff has allowed the team to improve customer service, issue a monthly newsletter providing useful information, news, and guidance to the community, and, perhaps most significantly, to reduce IRB review turnaround time as shown in the chart below.

IRB Review Turnaround Times for 2015 & 2016The average review turnaround time for expedited review applications decreased from seventeen days in 2015 to thirteen days in 2016. Similarly, the average review time for exemption requests decreased from fourteen days 2015 to seven days 2016.

These staffing increases and system improvements made possible by the formation of the HRPP provide researchers with more timely customer service assistance in resolving issues, providing guidance and answering questions. This greater review efficiency and enhance customer service allow UT investigators to move more quickly from submission to the conduct of their research.