Institutional Review Board

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Research in Foreign Countries

International studies often require additional safeguards to protect the rights and welfare of research participants.  There may be cultural differences that should be considered. For example: local customs or laws that might influence how the research is carried out, and possible risks due to social or political conditions.

Investigators who will be conducting research internationally need to be prepared to gather and submit the following information for review:

  • Description of where the research will be conducted (including geographic location and specific performance site, where applicable). Note: In some areas, government-issued research visas are required.
  • Information about the local research context, including the current social, economic, and political conditions of the area, including a description of the investigator’s personal experience conducting research (or studying or residing) in the region
  • Any additional risks participants might face as a result of the population being studied and/or the local research context.
  • The language(s) in which consent will be sought from participants and the research will be conducted, as well as whether the investigator is fluent in this language or whether a translator will be required. If a translator will be used, it should be clear what limitations or risks, if any, this might present for participants, as well as how these potential problems will be overcome or minimized.
  • Names of potential contacts not affiliated with the research who can act as cultural consultants

Things to consider:

Language: When documents must be translated into a language other than English, the researcher should provide a copy of the document in English, a copy in the language to be used, and a letter from an unbiased individual with expertise in the language (e.g., a Ursinus College faculty member) indicating that the translated version is complete and contains the same information as the English version.

Minors: When subjects are younger than 18 years of age, researchers are required to get written parental permission. However, if local regulations are such that parental permission for research in a school setting would be inappropriate, the researcher must give the Board proof that this is inappropriate. For example, proof could be a letter saying that parental permission would be inappropriate from an authorized official in the country, or from a Ursinus College faculty member who is familiar with the culture.

Audio/video taping: When researchers audio/video tape subjects, the Board requires a signed consent form. But in some cultures, subjects would be reluctant to sign an official form. This should be explained in the application, and the Board will consider alternative means of documenting consent such as obtaining verbal consent on the tape. Subjects must be informed of their rights, confidentiality, and all other aspects of consent.

** Created from Cornell University Forms and Federal Guidelines