Human Subjects Research

Are you thinking of conducting interviews or surveys as part of your SURF project? Are you conducting lab experiments where you interact with living people? These are just a few examples of the kinds of research that involve human subjects. All SURF applicants whose independent research involves human subjects need to take steps to educate themselves about how to conduct research ethically and to gain approval from the Committee for the Protection of Human Subjects (CPHS) before starting to collect data. 

While you do not need to have your project approved before applying to SURF, you will need to meet certain deadlines in order to ensure that you maintain your eligibility to receive a fellowship. You should start the process below when you start putting together your SURF application.

If you’re not sure if your project needs to be reviewed…

1. Contact a SURF advisor at The Office for the Protection of Human Subjects (OPHS) has put together some useful general guidelinesstudent-specific guidelines, and an overview of human subjects research to help you familiarize yourself with the IRB process, but it is often difficult to sort through this information on your own. A consultation with a SURF advisor can help to answer basic questions about the process. 

2. After contacting a SURF advisor, contact OPHS to determine 1) if you require review, and 2) if so, what “level of review” you should seek (exempt, non-exempt/expedited, or non-exempt/full committee). You can do this by emailing with a short description of your project (including how you intend to collect your data) and a tentative list of the questions or procedures that you intend to ask or require of your research subjects. Please copy on all communications.

If you are working in a lab setting, it is sometimes possible for your to be added to your lab’s existing protocol, but in some cases, your project will require independent review. If you are working in a lab, you should consult both a SURF advisor and your faculty mentor/lab PI to talk about the basics of your situation before contacting OPHS.

Please note that research that involves vulnerable populations such as prisoners, children, or pregnant women is considered high risk and always requires review. Please contact a SURF advisor as soon as possible to begin discussing ways to craft your research plan in an appropriate way.

Once you have determined that your project requires review…

1. Complete the  CITI Basic Human Research online course. The online course is here, and the signup guide is here. This will take roughly 4-6 hours.

2. Ask your faculty member if he or she also needs to complete CITI. Any UCB academic senate faculty member submitting his/her first protocol as PI to CPHS on or after 5/1/2014 must complete the CITI course.

3. Go to the eProtocol website and start your protocol. Please note that you need to know your level of review (exempt or non-exempt) before you can start the application. Contact a SURF advisor at for detailed instructions on how to start your protocol. The SURF staff will help you through the process and review your protocol before you submit. As part of the process, you will have to specify your recruitment and research procedures in detail. Depending on your project, this could include coming up with a final list of interview or survey questions. You may also be asked to submit materials such as sample recruitment flyers or emails and consent forms. Many students are surprised that these materials have to be finalized months in advance of their research, but this is necessary to ensure that your project plan meets the proper ethical standards. Do not submit your protocol before the SURF staff has had a chance to look at it.

4. Complete and submit your eProtocol by April 18th 2022 (Committee 2 within CPHS). Please note that your faculty member must approve the protocol before you can submit, so allow time for him or her to review the protocol before the deadline. It can take 2-3 months for protocols to be approved by OPHS/CPHS, so it is absolutely essential that you meet these deadlines to ensure that you can begin your data collection in the summer. If you do not complete this process in a timely fashion, your application may be disqualified or your SURF fellowship may be revoked.