Institutional Review Board for Health Sciences Research (IRB-HSR)

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Protocol & Consent Writing Assistance

Consent Background and Definitions



To ensure an effective informed consent process, the Institutional Review Board (IRB) and investigators comply with all applicable federal regulations (e.g., 21 CFR 50, 45 CFR 46.116, 117, and 38 CFR 16.116, 117). These regulations mandate the inclusion of eight basic informed consent elements (described below). Six additional elements may be required, depending on the nature of the research. IRB policy also specifies the information to include in the consent process.

The informed consent template included in the full and expedited IRB applications outlines the required elements of informed consent. The investigator may use a short form if approved by the IRB in accord with applicable federal requirements.


Informed Consent: Informed consent is an ongoing educational process that takes place between the investigator and prospective subject, allowing the investigator and the participant to exchange information and ask questions

Consent: Consent is the act of agreement and is only valid if the person providing consent has been fully informed, possesses the cognitive ability to understand what is being agreed to and also possesses the ability to self –determine and is of the legal age or disposition to do so. The term is also used to refer to the consent form itself.

Assent is defined as affirmative agreement of a child or an individual with impaired consent capacity to participate in research. Mere failure to object should not, absent affirmative agreement, be construed as assent.

Permission is defined as the agreement of parent(s) or guardian to the participation of their child or ward in research or clinical investigation. Permission includes the element of consent set forth in federal regulations and outlined in the informed consent template included in the IRB expedited and full review applications.

In Virginia, the terms child or children refer to all individuals under 18 years of age unless the individual(s) is legally emancipated. (See section Emancipated Individuals for details of Virginia state law.) Individuals under 18 years of age who are not emancipated meet the federal definition for “child” [e.g., Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and U.S. Department of Education].

Legally Authorized Representative (LAR) is an individual who has the authority to make research participation decisions on behalf of another. In accord with state law and federal regulation, individuals who can serve as legally authorized representatives are as follows:

In Virginia, a guardian is an individual who may serve as an LAR as defined above. These individuals meet the federal definitions for guardian.