Institutional Review Board (IRB) protects the rights and welfare of individuals participating in research conducted by the university.
The IRB is an independent committee, comprising of scientific and non-scientific members, that reviews and approves research studies involving human subjects and associated protocol amendments.
Principal Investigators and Co-Investigators of IRB studies must be certified by the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI). CITI Program is a US-based organisation, dedicated to promoting the public’s trust in research enterprises by providing high quality, peer-reviewed, web-based educational courses in research, ethics, regulatory oversight, responsible conduct of research, research administration, and other topics pertinent to the interests of member organisations and individual learners.
Through this training, researchers will ensure that all human biomedical research carried out follows the law and principles of good clinical practice relating to ethics, science, information, health and safety of participants, and adheres to Singapore’s Human Biomedical Research Act (HBRA). This will ensure that research protocols are conducted with integrity, and are of reliable quality, such that the health, welfare and safety of research participants remain the paramount consideration at all times.
Researchers will also be taught the principles of data protection, focusing on healthcare-related privacy, information security requirements, educational records and data-related requirements, which also complies with Singapore’s Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA). Researchers must ensure both the rights of individuals to protect their personal data, including rights of access, correction, and the needs of organisations to collect, use or disclose personal data for legitimate and reasonable purposes.
All human biomedical research conducted by staff and students involving the use of human subjects (e.g. human participants) must be reviewed and approved by the Institutional Review Board (IRB).
(a) the prevention, prognostication, diagnosis or alleviation of any disease, disorder or injury affecting the human body;
(b) the restoration, maintenance or promotion of the aesthetic appearance of human individuals through clinical procedures or techniques; or
(c) the performance or endurance of human individuals,
where the research involves –
(i) subjecting an individual to any intervention (including any wilful act or omission) that has a physical, mental or physiological effect (whether temporary or permanent) on the body of the individual;
(ii) the use of any individually identifiable biological material obtained from the human body; or
(iii) the use of any individually identifiable health information.
Human biomedical research includes any research involving human gametes or human embryos, cytoplasmic hybrid embryos etc.
For the avoidance of doubt, research involving any of the following methods needs to be reviewed by the IRB:
The IRB defines “research” to mean any systematic investigation with the intention of developing or contributing to generalisable knowledge including publication, seminar, public sharing.
In the context of research, the human subject may be a participant in the study. If you are conducting human biomedical research, the Human Biomedical Research Act (2015) defines a "research subject" as a natural person, whether living or dead
(a) whom a researcher involves in human biomedical research; or
(b) from whom human biological material or health information is obtained for use in human biomedical research.
The application forms can be downloaded from Sharepoint, which can only be accessed by SIT staff.
Please determine if your study will require Exempted or Expedited/ Full Board Review, and download the appropriate form from Sharepoint. You may check with the IRB if you are unsure.
Please refer to Q4 for the definition of Human Biomedical Research (HBR) as defined by the Ministry of Health, Singapore. If your research does not meet the definition of HBR, it is SBER.
The following documents need to be submitted to the IRB for review.
The application must be sent via email to the Secretariat IRB@SingaporeTech.edu.sg.
Note: The review process will only commence when the full application package is received.
The secretariat will check the application to ensure all the necessary information and documents have been submitted. Secretariat will examine the merits of the application and contact the PI if it requires clarification, more information, amendments, etc.
The application will then be assessed by IRB reviewers and the PI will be given the reviewers’ request for more information, amendments, etc.
If the final submission meets the IRB’s requirements, Chairman (IRB) will approve the application and a softcopy of the approval letter will be emailed to the PI. A hardcopy approval letter is available upon request.
The Principal Investigator (PI), is the main person in charge of the research study who will be held accountable for all aspects of the study. The PI’s responsibilities are detailed below:
The Principal Investigator (PI), is the main person-in-charge of the research study who will be held accountable for all aspects of the study. The PI’s responsibilities are detailed below:
Note: The PI must have attained the CITI certificate and a copy of it must be included in the application form.
The PI decides who to include in the study team, and their specific roles in the study.
Co-Is may be SIT staff, students, or external personnel. They may have direct contact with the participants and are aware of the research protocol, functions and objectives. Their responsibilities may include the following:
a. Engaging potential participants and explaining the study details to them;
b. Facilitate consent taking;
c. Administration of the survey, interview, research activity;
d. Data collation, recording, storage, etc.
e. Assist the PI to disburse inconvenience fees, transport cost, appreciation vouchers, etc (if any) to the participants.
While the PI has ultimate responsibility for the conduct of a research project, Co-Is are obligated to ensure the project is designed and conducted in compliance with applicable laws and regulations and institutional policy governing the conduct of research involving human subjects. The Co-I must be properly briefed by the PI to conduct his/her duties.
Collaborators have only minimal contact with the participants in the conduct of the study if any. Their primary function is to facilitate the study by providing information e.g. scientific advice or industry knowledge. They may not be directly involved in the research activities as detailed in the roles of the Co-I (above).
Essentially there are 2 types. Implied and Expressed.
Implied: Participant (in interviews or surveys) is anonymous i.e. personal identifiable data will not be collected. Participating in the study is proof of consent. There is no need for the participant to sign a hardcopy consent form. All participants must be given a participant information sheet detailing the nature of the research, expectation of the participant, etc. Only SBER applications can have implied consent.
Informed (Written) Consent: The participant’s personal identifiable data is taken as it is essential for the study e.g. longitudinal studies which may require contacting the participant intermittently during the duration of the study. Participant must sign the consent form prior to his/her involvement in the study.
It is essential under HBRA to have a witness present, who must also sign off in the consent form. Criteria for the witness is as follows:
a. 21 years of age or older;
b. Has mental capacity; and
c. Must not be the same individual taking the appropriate consent.
Note: Witness may be a member of the research team.
The Witness must take reasonable steps to ascertain –
(a) the identity of the individual giving the appropriate consent; and
(b) that the consent was given voluntarily without any coercion or intimidation.
No. PIs must use the IRB template and delete all the clauses that do not apply to their respective study.
There are 3 types of reviews. The IRB will assess each application and determine the review type regardless of the application form the PI uses.
More than minimal risk e.g. research involving vulnerable populations, involving sensitive questions, etc
Minimal risk or remote risk e.g. surveys or interviews on sensitive topics
No likelihood of harm e.g. anonymous surveys or interviews
Expected Duration of Review
4 weeks and above
Between 2 to 4 weeks
At least 1 week
Note: Review duration will depend on PI’s response time to address queries, provide clarifications and make amendments based on the secretariat’s and/ or reviewer’s comments.
Upon notification of approval from the IRB.
A protocol amendment constitutes any changes made to an ongoing approved application (e.g. changes in methodology, recruitment method). This includes the addition or removal of investigators. PI should only implement the changes when the IRB has approved the protocol amendment.
Send the duly filled up protocol amendment form to the secretariat will all the necessary documents to support the request for the amendment. If there is a change in PI/ Co-I a copy of the curriculum vitae (CV) and CITI certificate has to be submitted along with the application form.
IRB does not conduct retrospective reviews on research that have been already completed as these could be problematic. In particular, changes cannot be made to the research methodology if ethical issues are uncovered, e.g.
a. Research participants were not informed that their participation in class activities was part of a research study
b. Consent had not been sought for their participation or participant did not agree to their data being used for research purposes.
The Collaborative Institutional Training Institute (CITI) certification is a good place to start. SIT has registered with CITI, and you may take their online modules to learn and attain their certification. Please contact the secretariat for details.
The Personal Data Protection Commission (PDPC) of Singapore provides online learning on data protection, data security, personal data protection, etc. Please view the PDPC Interactive learning tool for more information.
To find out more about our research practices or provide feedback on any of our research projects, send us an email and we will get back to you as soon as we can.