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An 'Approved' stamp with the letters 'IRB' on it.

Once all of the planning decisions are made, the next step is usually to apply for institutional review board (IRB) approval. IRBs are committees that review research protocols and other materials to ensure the rights, safety, and welfare of human subjects participating in studies.

For research that is federally funded, an IRB review is mandatory, but IRB reviews should be considered for any study using human subjects. Invasion of participants' privacy (e.g., sharing information with those not involved in the study) and data confidentiality issues (e.g., securing study data) are serious concerns. This is why academic researchers almost always send their survey protocols, consent forms, and data collection methods to an IRB for review. The IRB can certify that the rights of subjects will be protected, that any potential adverse effects on participants will be minimized, and the data will be securely managed and maintained.

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