Become an IRB Member

What is the role of an IRB Member?

The UNM Institutional Review Board (IRB) is charged with review of proposed human research protocols in order to ensure that the rights of participants are protected and that risk of harm is minimized. The framework for the protection of human participants is set in Federal regulation and the Belmont Report. Board members provide ethical review of human research and help ensure compliance with University of New Mexico policies and procedures, federal regulations, and state and local laws. 

The UNM IRB oversees human research at both the UNM main campus and all branch campuses. We also provide IRB services to community partners. If you have an interest social science and behavioral research and would like to be involved with protecting the safety and welfare of individuals who participate in research, this volunteer opportunity may be for you. IRB members play an essential role in the review process and bring diverse backgrounds and experience to the review of research applications.  

The Office of the IRB (OIRB) is the administrative office that supports the UNM IRB.  OIRB staff are involved in reviewing IRB applications, administrative support and scheduling for board meetings, compliance monitoring and education and outreach activities.  OIRB staff also recruit and provide initial training and ongoing education for all IRB members and OIRB staff. 

Diverse Membership

In compliance with federal regulations, UNM IRB membership is diverse with respect to scientific background, expertise, gender, race, ethnicity and affiliation.  This allows for a better review of research since each member brings unique perspective to the discussion. The board includes members who:

  • have training in scientific fields and others who do not have a science background or training;
  • are UNM faculty, staff and graduate students; and
  • are community members not affiliated with UNM.

Community Members

Unaffiliated community members play an important role on the IRB.  They bring unique insight and perspective to discussions about how best to protect research participants. The community member(s) has the responsibility to provide the perspective of the volunteer research participant to the review of protocols.  Community members do not have a current affiliation with UNM and must not have had one for the past two years. They also must not have an immediate family member (spouse or child) affiliated with the institution.

Non-Scientist Members

IRB members with a non-scientific background may be employed at UNM or they may be community members. There must be a non-scientist member at every IRB meeting.

Graduate Student Members

Annually, the UNM IRB accepts applications from the UNM graduate and professional student community to serve a one year term on the UNM IRB.  This is a unique professional development opportunity and provides great insight into the IRB review process.  Announcements for new recruitment are sent out at the end of each calendar year for service the following year.

IRB Review

IRB members review research proposals in an online submission system called IRBNet.  The board discussion is focused on making sure the study design and procedures meet a set of eight regulatory criteria required for IRB approval.   In brief, those are:

  • Research design is sound and study hypothesis is reasonable
  • Risks to subjects are minimized
  • Risks to subjects are reasonable in relation to anticipated benefits
  • Selection of subjects is equitable.
  • Informed consent is obtained or appropriately waived from all prospective subjects and documented
  • The research protocol includes a plan for data and safety monitoring if appropriate
  • Participant privacy and confidentiality are protected
  • Appropriate additional safeguards are incorporated for any vulnerable populations

To become an IRB member, we ask:  

  • Members to make a minimum of a three-year commitment to serving on the board.
  • Members to agree to attend at least 80% of the monthly meetings on UNM main campus (there are also opportunities to attend remotely).  Parking passes are provided if needed.
  • For a time commitment of approximately 4-6 hours per month. Meetings last 1-2 hours and the members attending each meeting must review study materials in advance to prepare for the discussion.  
  • Member to participate in an initial training process, including online training and in person orientation; members also participate in monthly continuing education activities.
  • Members to read the UNM IRB Member Manual and complete a Conflict of Interest disclosure annually.
  • Members to sign a Confidentiality Agreement upon becoming an IRB member. The materials presented and all discussions at an IRB meeting are considered confidential.
  • If you are interested, we may also ask you to conduct minimal risk reviews.

We’re happy to answer your questions about becoming an IRB member.  For more information, contact the IRB Director by phone (505-277-2644) or e-mail: