ACU Institutional Review Board Policy


Abilene Christian University is comprised of a community of scholars who are committed to the highest level of integrity and ethical conduct in their work. This commitment grows out of the distinctive Christian character of the institution and its members. Respectful of the biblical doctrine of the creation, members of the ACU community are expected to engage in their scholarly activities with due regard for all the created order, both human and non-human. As a teaching institution, the research activities of the faculty and staff serve as exemplars for the students who observe and learn from these activities.

In order to ensure ethical behavior in the conduct of scholarship and research, the University has established this Institutional Review Board policy. This document is meant to ensure that research practices minimize risk to subjects, both human and non-human, and that potential benefits from research activities are maximized. This document articulates procedures that assure the human subject participation is based on equitable selection of subjects, and that participation in human subject research is non-coercive and based on the principle of informed consent. These procedures also provide protections for animal subjects, when used in research by members of the University community.

The procedures described in this document are designed to conform to state and federal requirements for the protection of human and animal subjects. While such conformity is necessary for receiving external funding, the rationale for developing and implementing this document is primarily an expression of the Christian commitment of the institution and its faculty, staff and students.

Human Research

Levels of IRB Review
Non-research/Non-human research
Expedited Review
Full Board Review


An application packet (including the appropriate application for review, based on the categories listed above, a signed assurances form, and all required appendix materials such as, but not limited to, consent forms, advertisement and surveys, and/or vulnerable populations forms, as appropriate) must be completed and submitted to ORSP via Email. Investigators should use the tools on the IRB website [link to the submit a new application page] and the Department of Health and Human Services website [link to the decision charts] to determine whether to complete the non-research/non-human research, exempt, expedited, or full-board application form. However, ultimately, the ORSP Office or an IRB member will make the final determination as to the level of IRB review required. For studies requiring expedited or full-board review, the Director of Research and Sponsored Programs will forward a copy to the primary reviewer within one (1) week of the proposal being received. In the case of an expedited review, the primary reviewer will review the protocol and make a determination. If the primary reviewer is unable to approve the protocol under expedited procedures, the protocol will be assigned to full board review.


Full board meetings are generally scheduled for the first Monday of each month during the academic year. If the protocol is received at least 30 days before the meeting, it will be assigned to that meeting, space allowing. Protocols received less than 30 days prior to the meeting cannot be guaranteed an assignment at the next meeting and may be assigned to the following month. Protocols received less than 2 weeks prior to the meeting will automatically be assigned to the following month to allow for appropriate preparation by the IRB. The PI and Point of Contact named in the protocol will receive notice of full board review and the date assigned for review. At the full board review, committee members will vote to:

  1. Approve as submitted.
  2. *Approve with minor modifications
  3. *Table: Request further information/clarification and resubmission of the proposal.
  4. Not approved as submitted/ Request Major Modifications for:
    1. Inadequately observing the Standards for Utilizing Human Subjects in Research.
    2. Excessive use of specific groups or classes that may have recently participated in other research.

* The proposal must be modified and resubmitted to the Director of Research and Sponsored Programs within 10 working days of its return to the investigator.

A simple majority will constitute acceptance of the proposal. No research may be initiated on any proposal that was returned for revisions or has not been approved by the IRB. When a protocol is Not Approved as Submitted, the PI will receive written feedback for the reason that it could not be approved. Protocols that are Not Approved as Submitted can be revised and resubmitted. These protocols will always go back to full board review.

The University's IRB Committee will meet a least once (1) a semester and monthly, as needed. 

Standards Regarding Human Subjects in Research (based on 45 CFR 46 and Ethical Principles in the Conduct of Research with Human Participants (published by the American Psychological Association, Inc., 1200 Seventeenth St. N.W. Washington, DC 20036)

  1. All procedures must pose no undue risks to life, health, or integrity of the subjects involved.
  2. Any risks posed to participants must be clearly outweighed by the significance of the proposed outcome of the investigation. Subjects must be notified in writing of potential risks and sign an informed consent form, unless waived by the IRB. In addition, the researcher must show that alternative procedures, that better protect subjects, would seriously compromise the nature and integrity of the proposed study.
  3. The basic elements of the Informed Consent must include:
    1. A concise, yet complete explanation of the procedures to be followed, including the duration of the subjects' participation. Identification of experimental procedures must be revealed.
    2. A description of any risks or discomfort that can be reasonably expected.
    3. A description of any benefits that can be reasonably expected.
    4. A disclosure of alternative procedures, especially therapeutic procedures that may be advantageous for the subject(s).
    5. A statement explaining the extent of confidentiality of data and records.
    6. A statement allowing the subject to withdraw consent and/or discontinue participation in the project at anytime without intimidation or prejudice.
    7. An explanation as to whether compensation or medical treatment is available if physical injury occurs as a direct result of the study.
  4. The name and telephone number of someone independent of the research team (i.e. ORSP) to answer pertinent questions about research problems, concerns, or subjects rights.
  5. All procedures must show due regard for sensitivities and integrity of participants in order to preserve rights to privacy.
  6. Procedures must be observed for assuring informed, voluntary consent of all participants. Subjects who have not obtained the legal age of consent must receive permission for participation from their parent or legal guardian.
  7. The use of all findings must be restricted to purposes for which said consent was obtained. When such purposes have been fulfilled, the research data should be securely stored for 3 years and then disposed of properly.
  8. Adequate procedures must be provided such that the collection, processing, storage, retrieval, and disposal of data is in compliance with these standards.
  9. Any areas or situations not covered by these standards shall be reviewed by the committee in compliance with 45 CFR 46 .
New in Reasearch

Dr. Ryan Jessup, Assistant Professor of Marketing

Dr. Jessup is interested in decisions.  What causes people to choose poorly?  How do learning and contextual factors influence choice?  In seeking to answer these questions, his research uses psychological models of motivation to distill the computational properties of decision making.  Computational modeling enhances research by requiring precision in theory formulation and constraining predictions.

One of Dr. Jessup’s primary streams of research concerns the behavioral differences between decisions when options are completely described vs. decisions when options must be learned about via experience.  Prior research found that individuals choose quite differently between the two paradigms but the reasons underlying the difference are poorly understood.  One of Dr. Jessup’s studies demonstrated that the reception of feedback overwhelms descriptive information, driving the behavioral differences between paradigms.  This work has led him and his colleagues (including Dr. John Homer and undergraduate researcher Allison Phillips) to build a new model that merges sophisticated decision making mechanisms with reinforcement learning in order to successfully predict behavior in both paradigms better than existing models. Dr. Jessup has previously received Cullen awards for this work and is currently seeking external funding to continue this fascinating line of research.

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