Throughout 2017, the academic community prepared for changes to the Federal Policy for the Protection of Human Subjects, known also as the “Common Rule,” which were scheduled to be implemented on January 19, 2018. Among other things, this Common Rule sets requirements for institutional review board (IRB) policies. However, a new federal announcement has delayed the implementation of these changes to July 19, 2018—pushing back the scheduled changes by six months. This delay means that psychological scientists can conduct business as usual until July, but APS recommends watching for updates to the Common Rule closely in case any changes occur.
The July 19, 2018 changes are relevant to the psychological science community. NIH Director of the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research William T. Riley and his colleague Farheen Akbar noted in the APS Observer that the upcoming changes will expand the types of studies that are deemed exempt from IRB review, now including research involving “benign behavioral interventions” on adult subjects—meaning that more of the kinds of studies often conducted by psychological scientists will be exempt from review.
“For behavioral and social sciences researchers, the various provisions of the revised Common Rule will provide greater flexibility and less burden, especially for low-risk studies, while ensuring the rights and welfare of study participants,” wrote Riley and Akbar.
According to the announcement, the delayed implementation is to allow universities and other groups have more time to prepare for the changes.
APS will continue to share updates to the Common Rule implementation timeline with members online or via e-mail, as they occur. Indeed, further delays may be likely: “The federal departments and agencies listed in this document are in the process of developing a proposed rule to further delay implementation,” reads the announcement. In the interim, researchers who are interested in learning more about the upcoming changes should consult their university IRBs for further information.
Interested stakeholders are invited to share their thoughts on the Common Rule changes in a comment to the Office for Human Research Protections. More information on how to comment can be found on the announcement.