Laws Related to Undergraduate Research

Regulations: Ensuring your Research is Legal
You’ve chosen your research project, and you’re already setting up the cages for the lab mice you need or drafting the questions for your control group of students versus your test group.  However, there are certain forms to be filled out and guidelines to be followed if you’re going to use live subjects in any way. While it may be tempting to skip this step, it is the law and it’s there for a reason.

#1: Institutional Review Board (IRB) Approval
In many cases, your procedures must go to the Human Subjects Institutional Review Board before you can begin collecting data. Some examples include (but are not limited to):

  • If you’re performing a study in which human volunteers undertake more than minimal risk
  • If you’re collecting any bodily samples of hair, fluid, etc. from the volunteers
  • If you’re requesting that the volunteers perform moderate physical exercises
  • If you’re researching the effects of any drug or chemical on human bodies.
  • If you are not sure whether or not you need approval, please ask your faculty advisor an consult the charts at this link:

To find out any additional information about the procedures involving human subjects at WCU, visit the IRB website. Please keep in mind that this can be an extensive process and requires time, so make sure to plan accordingly. Also, for first time researchers there is a training module that you will need to do to become familiar with the current laws.

#2: WCU’s Policy on Surveys
If you are planning on surveying a significant portion of the student or faculty body, or if you are doing any surveys in the name of WCU, the survey falls under WCU Policy #51 and must be accepted by the proper authorities.

#3: Additional Concerns
If your project involves animal testing, the use of recombinant DNA, the use of radioactive materials, or any other potentially dangerous substances, visit this website for more information.

For more information, contact:  WCU Research Administration, 828.227.7212


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