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Study Funding and the IRB

What is a funding source and why does the IRB-SBS need this information?

Although the love of science is a motivating factor for many researchers, being paid to do what you love makes it even better which is why having your research funded is the best of both worlds. Knowing who is funding your study is important information for an IRB.  During the IRB review process is it essential for the Board to consider whether the funds create a conflict of interest for the researcher. Some funding sources can be problematic for a participant group and the board may require that you provide full disclosure to the participants regarding who is funding the study.   Additionally, the IRB must be able to link your research protocol to its funding source and quickly identify your research funds as federal, private, state or local UVA funds in case the IRB needs to exchange information with other institutional offices at UVA.

Describing your funding source:

It is important that you provided adequate information about your funding source. Please provide the name of the source and indicate whether the source is one of the following:

  • Federal grant: Funding is received from any federally funded organization such as the NIH
  • Private grant (non-profit): Funding is received from a private donor or foundation such as the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
  • Private grant (for profit): Funding is received from a private company such as Boeing.
  • Local Virginia government: Municipal or county governments provide funding for a study.
  • Virginia Commonwealth grant (Non-UVa State fund): Funding is provided by the Virginia Commonwealth. Although UVa receives funds from the Commonwealth, UVa grants are a separate category.
  • Non-Virginia government grant: Funding is received from any government entity outside of Virginia.
  • UVa grant: Funding is received from a UVa organized grant. This only includes specific awards given to researchers for a specific project; it does not include UVa faculty or staff salaries. Examples include the Harrison Award, Summer Stipends/Grants, Center for Global Inquiry and Innovation Grants.
  • Sub-Contract: Funding is received from another institution that hires a UVa researcher to conduct all or part of a research project.

Potential Conflicts of Interest

Generally funding is not problematic but it is still important for an IRB reviewer to look at the big picture for the study and understand how the funding source plays a role. In some instances, a researcher could profit from the results of the study. For example, the researcher is studying the benefit of a new curriculum and when the curriculum is sold, the researcher will profit from the sale.  Though not necessarily a hindrance, it may be necessary to disclose this information to the participants in the consent form. In addition, the research may need to be reviewed by the UVa Conflict of Interest Committee. Occasionally a funding source may have the potential to be problematic for some participants. For example, funds that are linked to an institution with strong political or religious ties that may be objectionable to some participants; controversy is not a reason to stop a study but the board may require full disclosure to participants in the consent form and recruitment materials. Although it is rare, a board member may have a financial relationship with an institution which could affect their ability to review a study objectively (if this is the case, the board member would just recuse themselves from the review).

Grant Funding and IRB-SBS Protocols

Grant awards and IRB protocol reviews don’t always happen in a neat order. Sometimes a researcher starts a study and then applies for a grant in order to expand the scope of the study. At a minimum, when funding is received that covers research already approved and in progress, it is important that a modification is submitted to notify us of the new funding. When the modification is submitted, verify that the original protocol still matches what was proposed in the research grant. It may be necessary to modify the protocol, consent form, and other documents as well so that they reflect what is actually taking place. In some cases, it may even be necessary to start a new protocol instead. If you have questions, feel free to contact our office and we can make recommendations as to what needs to happen next.

For new and developing studies, occasionally funding agencies request that an IRB does a preliminary grant review and approval as part of the grant application process. For assistance with this process, email the IRB-SBS director, Bronwyn Blackwood, and provide her with the grant information.

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