2015 PRIM&R Poster

HLMA SIM Workshop PRIMR Poster FINAL 10-6-2015Kim_Grace Poster

Click here for a PDF version of the poster

The Impact of Student-Specific Workshops on IRB Applications





Each year the Harvard Medical School Scholars in Medicine (SIM) Program requires first-year medical and dental students to complete a research project as part of the curriculum. Of a possible cohort of 160 students, over half propose to conduct human subjects research and submit an application to the Harvard Longwood Medical Area schools Institutional Review Board (IRB).

Students, however, often lack specific knowledge about the role of an IRB and application requirements. As a result, the Office of Human Research Administration (OHRA) developed and offered a series of workshops aimed at educating students and facilitating the IRB review and approval process.


Who? First-year medical and dental students who developed research projects involving human subjects (N=82).
What? Optional one-hour workshop held weekly from February-April 2015 (8 weeks).
Why? To educate new SIM students about the role of the IRB, to guide them through the application process, and to cultivate a positive application experience.

Combination of 30 minute presentation followed by 30 minute project-specific Q&A in small groups, led by an IRB designated reviewer. The workshop presentation included basics such as application requirements, modes of IRB review, de-identified vs. coded data, and working with vulnerable populations.

Evaluation occurred in two steps: Workshop attendees were sent a survey to assess their pre- and post- workshop knowledge (n=20). Three months later, all 82 SIM students who submitted an IRB application were surveyed to assess their overall IRB application experience, regardless of workshop attendance.


Post-Workshop Survey: (n=8)

  • 50% of attendees reported feeling prepared/very prepared to submit their application.
  • 100% of the attendees reported that they would recommend the workshop to their peers.

Turnaround Time Impact:
Turnaround time between submission and approval decreased from 22 days in 2014 to 13 days in 2015 (January 1 – April 15).

Overall Workshop Findings

  • Students responded to a ‘less is more’ approach with regards to the presentation.
  • Students reported benefiting from the Q&A session and favor one-on-one attention.
  • Frequently asked questions from SIM students pertained to turnaround time, ceded review/ reliance agreements, local review for international projects, and requirements for secondary data analysis/medical record review.
  • The workshops had a direct effect on student preparedness, understanding of the application process, and submission completeness and accuracy, which resulted in reduced turnaround time.

Post-Application Survey: (n=26)

  • 80% of respondents felt satisfied with the turnaround time of their projects’ review and approval.
  • 74% of respondents were satisfied to extremely satisfied with the communication with, and support from, the IRB while their application was in process.
  • 69% reported an overall positive IRB submission experience.

Based on the results from the 2015 application season and the success of our program implementation, student IRB workshops are something OHRA will continue to develop and offer annually. As a result of student feedback and our experience, we intend to offer more frequent workshops prior to the application deadline and add office hours with one-on-one time slots. Additionally, we may make workshop attendance mandatory so that all students benefit from this educational opportunity. We also plan to further develop the process by turning the workshops into a webinar and enhance the application guidance available to students on the OHRA website. We would recommend that other institutions adopt student workshops as a way to facilitate and improve the student submission experience.

Click here for a PowerPoint version of the workshop slides

Contact Information:
Kim Serpico, MEd, CIP & Grace Bullock