Common Rule



All studies approved after January 21, 2019 will be required to comply with the Revised Common Rule.

In most cases, the Common Rule changes will not impact your ongoing research.

The Syracuse University IRB is beginning to make changes to relevant policies and pertinent procedures in accordance with the Revised Common Rule. 

Major Regulation Changes

  • Research 

Revised Definitions

Research: The revised Common Rule adds a provision that identifies four types of activities as not being “research” as defined in the Rule:

  • Certain scholarly and journalistic activities,
  • Certain public health surveillance activities,
  • Collection and analysis of information, specimens, or records, by or for a criminal justice agency for certain criminal justice or investigative purposes, and
  • Certain authorized operational activities for national security purposes.

45CFR46.102(I): Research means a systematic investigation, including research development, testing, and evaluation, designed to develop or contribute to generalizable knowledge.

Human Subject: The regulatory definition of human subject remains substantively the same but in the revised Common Rule “data” is replaced with “information or biospecimens” for clarity.

45CFR46.102(I): Human subject means a living individual about whom an investigator (whether professional or student) conducting research: (i) Obtains information or biospecimens through intervention or interaction with the individual, and, uses, studies, or analyzes the information or biospecimens; or (ii) Obtains, uses, studies, analyzes, or generates identifiable private information or identifiable biospecimens.

*Content courtesy of Stanford University*

  • Continuing Review

Continuing Review – New Extended Approval Process (EAP):Some minimal risk studies will no longer require annual review. The IRB will begin identifying applicable studies.

Currently approved studies approved prior to 1/21/19 will still require continuing renewal approval until the study is complete and/or reaches the maximum expiration allowed by the IRB Office, whichever comes first.

  • Exemptions – Broadened and New Exempt Categories

          Pre-2018 Rule (Current)                                   Revised Common Rule

  1. Educational practices                   ——>                    Restrictions Added
  1. Educations tests, surveys,           ——>                    Expanded

interviews, observation of

public behavior

  1. Research on public officials       ——>                    Removed and replaced with new4.
  2. Research on existing data          ——>                    Expanded old and added new
  1. Public benefit service                  ——>                    Expanded with changes
  2. Taste and food evaluations       ——>                     No change

*New Exemption #7

*New Exemption #8

*New limited IRB review to make certain determination as a condition of exemption

Exemption 1 (Educational Practices): research in established or commonly accepted educational settings that involves certain normal educational practices, such as research on instructional techniques already in use or classroom management. A new restriction to the applicability of Exemption 1 requires that the research must also not be likely to adversely impact the student’s opportunity to learn required educational content or the assessment of educators who provide the instruction.

Exemption 2 (Educational tests, surveys, interviews, observation of public behavior): there are three primary changes:

  • Addition that this “only includes interactions” involving educational tests, surveys, interviews, and observation of public behavior. Exemption 2 is not applicable to research involving interventions.
  • Addition to second criterion requiring that the disclosure of the subjects’ responses outside the research would not reasonably be damaging to the subjects’ “educational advancement.”
  • Allows for the use of the limited IRB review where identifiable information (even if sensitive is recorded).

Exemption 3 (Benign Behavioral Interventions): research involving benign behavioral interventions with adults who prospectively agree to the research, when the information collected is limited to verbal or written responses, including data entry or audiovisual recordings. A benign behavioral intervention must be brief in duration (although data collection may take longer). Also, the intervention must be harmless, painless, and not physically invasive. Further, the intervention must not be likely to have a significant adverse lasting impact on subjects. The investigator must have no reason to believe that the intervention will be offensive or embarrassing to subjects, and should take into consideration the subjects’ population, the context of the research, the topic, and other characteristics of the study.

Exemption 4 (Research on existing data): secondary research use of identifiable private information or identifiable biospecimens. One change in the revised Common Rule is that the private information and biospecimens no longer have to be in existence prior to the start of the research but must meet one of the applicability provisions.

Exemption 5 (Public benefit service): expanded to include research that is also supported by a federal department or agency (for example, through a grant of funding). There is also a new requirement for the federal entity conducting or sponsoring the research to publish a publicly available list of the projects that are covered by this exemption before the research begins.

Exemption 6 (Taste and Food Evaluations): No changes to this category that allows for the review or research involving taste and food quality evaluation and consumer acceptance studies.

Exemption 7 (Storage and maintenance for secondary research collected under broad consent): covers the storage or maintenance of identifiable private information or identifiable biospecimens for secondary research. Secondary research refers to research with materials originally obtained for non-research purposes or for research other than the current research proposal. The exemption can only be used when there is broad consent from the subjects for the storage, maintenance, and secondary research use of their identifiable materials.

Exemption 8 (Secondary research for which broad consent is required): covers the secondary research use of identifiable private information or identifiable biospecimens originally obtained for non-research purposes or for research other than the current proposal. There are four requirements that must be satisfied:

  • broad consent must be obtained from the subjects for the secondary research use of their identifiable materials,
  • documentation or waiver of documentation of informed consent must be obtained,
  • an IRB must conduct a limited review to make certain determinations relating to privacy and confidentiality protections and broad consent, and investigators cannot include the return of individual research results to subjects in the study plan. Note that this requirement does not limit an investigator’s ability to abide by any other legal requirement to return individual research results.

*Content courtesy of Stanford University*

  • Informed Consent

Informed Consent:

New General Requirements:

Changes to the general requirements for informed consent to provide key information and promote autonomy by ensuring prospective subjects receive the information needed to make an informed decision.

Changes to the informed consent general requirements include:

  1. Informed consent must give prospective subjects the information that a reasonable person would want to have in order to make an informed decision
  2. Information must be presented in a way that facilitates an understanding of why one might, or might not, want to participate
  3. The informed consent form should not simply list isolated facts, but instead should help people process complicated information
  4. Key information such as the study’s purpose, risks, benefits, and alternatives, must be provided at the beginning of the consent form.

New Elements:

Four requirements have been added to the elements of informed consent.

The first is required for all studies, and is a statement about whether participants’ information or biospecimens might (or will not) be stripped of identifiers and used for future research.

The three new elements of informed consent, to be added as applicable, are:

  1. Information about possible commercial profit
  2. Information about whether clinically relevant research results will be returned to the subjects
  3. Information about whether research activities will or might include whole genome sequencing.

Change to the Waiver of Informed Consent: When identifiable biospecimens or private information are involved, the IRB must determine that the research could not practicably be conducted without the use of the identifiable information. If the research could be done using non-identifiable information, then that is what should be done.

Expansion of When Signed Informed Consent is Required: The IRB may waive the requirement for a signed informed consent form when the subjects are members of a distinct cultural group or community in which signing forms is not the norm, and the research involves no more than minimal risk, and there is an alternative method for documenting that consent was obtained.

*Content courtesy of Stanford University*

  • Single IRB-of-Records (sIRB)

Most federally funded collaborative research projects based in the US will be required to use a sIRB effective January 2020 (As of January 25, 2018, NIH policy has required the use of a sIRB in accordance with NIH Policy.

What to Expect

The new regulations do not impact studies approved prior to January 21, 2019.

For new studies, expect to see:

  1. IRB application changes
  2. Informed consent template revisions
  3. IRB standard operation procedure updates

What You Can Do

Check this website periodically for new information.

Additional Regulatory Changes / Resources

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is implementing a variation of the Single IRB-Of-Record policy beginning January 25, 2018. The NIH sIRB policy applies to:

  • NIH-sponsored multi-site studies, where the same protocol is used at multiple sites.
  • Domestic research only.

NIH Clinical Trial Policies

The NIH has issued several other policies and guidance designed to “enhance the accountability and transparency of clinical research”:

  • Revised clinical trial definition (1/25/2015)
  • Required Good Clinical Practice training (1/18/2017)
  • registration and reporting of results (1/18/2017)
  • Use of the new Human Subjects and Clinical Trials form (part of the NIH funding application package, Forms-E) (1/25/2018)

NIH’s definition of a clinical trial is broad, encompassing a wide range of activity which now may include behavioral studies (e.g., studies that manipulate an independent variable to observe a hypothesized modification of a behavioral process).

NIH Definition of a Clinic Trial

A research study in which one or more human subjects are prospectively assigned to one or more interventions (which may include placebo or other control) to evaluate the effects of those interventions on health-related biomedical or behavioral outcomes.

Where to Find Help

To help you identify whether your NIH-funded research would be considered a clinical trial under this definition and, therefore, subject to all the related policies (e.g., NIH sIRB, registration and reporting, etc.), the NIH offers the following resources:

  • FAQs and case studies
  • NIH Deputy Director’s blog
  • NIH Clinical Trials Policy website