Research News

Vanderbilt University to launch new review board for social, behavioral and educational research

Recent analyses of IRB data show that the vast majority of new studies at Vanderbilt University that involve human participants are in social, behavioral and education research, whereas fewer than 2 percent are health expedited or standard studies. To better reflect this research environment and provide our research community with IRB services tailored to each study type, the university will launch a new Institutional Review Board over the next year specifically to serve the university’s social, behavioral and education research.

Formation of the VU SBER IRB is being spearheaded by the Office of the Vice Provost for Research and Innovation in collaboration with faculty and staff stakeholders across the university, as well as the Human Research Protections Program at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. The goal is to enhance IRB services for social, behavioral and educational researchers.

Associate Provost Liz Zechmeister and Assistant Provost for Research Integrity and Compliance Liane Moneta-Koehler provided tailored assistance for individual researchers, partnered with a VUMC-led task force to revise the informed consent template, expanded communications with the HRPP at VUMC to help the university prepare for new IRB policies and practices, and engaged an independent IRB to review international studies.

VU and VUMC can now build on these enhancements to establish a Vanderbilt University–specific IRB to provide reviews and manage an HRPP for social, behavioral and education aspects of the university’s research portfolio.

“This approach allows our respective institutions to more effectively support our researchers and tailor our IRB and HRPP processes to our research priorities,” Vice Provost Padma Raghavan said. “I’d like to thank Provost Raver for her support; Liz, Liane and all our stakeholders for helping devise this plan; and VUMC leadership for their ongoing partnership and collaboration to ensure a smooth transition.”

Once established, the new VU SBER IRB will review all social, behavioral and educational studies, along with exempt determinations. Vanderbilt University will continue to work closely with the VUMC IRB to review all health expedited or standard studies.

“Vanderbilt University excels at diverse human subjects research, spanning groundbreaking studies in social and behavioral sciences to innovative educational methodologies,” Moneta-Koehler said. “The VU SBER IRB will bring specialized expertise in those areas, providing our faculty with the tailored guidance they need to advance their discovery and innovation goals.”

Calendar year 2024 will be a transition year as leadership, administration and staffing elements of the new VU SBER IRB are established. Raghavan appointed an IRB Advisory Committee composed of faculty experts in human-based research protocols to advise during the transition.

The current IRB Advisory Committee members are:

  • Liz Zechmeister, committee chair, Cornelius Vanderbilt Professor of Political Science and associate provost for research and innovation
  • Amanda Goodwin, professor of teaching and learning
  • Akos Ledeczi, professor of computer science
  • Daniel Levin, professor of psychology and human development
  • Liane Moneta-Koehler, assistant provost for research integrity and compliance
  • Jeremy Neal, associate professor of nursing
  • Bunmi Olatunji, Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of Psychology

“Our first task in the IRB Advisory Committee is to search for our VU SBER IRB director,” Zechmeister said. “Once that critical team member is on board, we will partner with them to develop infrastructure and launch the VU SBER IRB to support our world-class human subjects research community.”

The Office of the Vice Provost for Research and Innovation and the IRB Advisory Committee will keep the Vanderbilt research community informed throughout the transition period. Updates and essential information will be regularly posted on the Research Integrity and Compliance website.

For assistance with IRB-related matters or more information about VU SBER IRB, email the Research Integrity and Compliance team at