Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Justice

Washington State IRB: Advancing Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Justice in Human Subjects’ Research

  • Diversity: The practice of acknowledging, considering, and valuing the experiences, contributions, and needs of people from a range of different social and ethnic backgrounds and of different genders, sexual orientations, ages, physical abilities, etc. Diversity of participants, investigators, and members of the IRB who review research includes but is not limited to differences in ability, age, culture, gender, immigration, LGBTQIA+, military membership, national origin, race, religion, and socio-economic status.
  • Equity: The fair and just treatment of all individuals in a community.  Equity is not a static state but a continuous process that acknowledges differing needs and seeks to address imbalances.  
  • Inclusion:  The practice and policy of ensuring community members feel respected, heard, and able to participate in meaningful ways. This applies to the subjects of research, as well as to Board and staff members who are charged with reviewing the research.
  • Justice: One of the central tenets of research ethics, justice demands fairness in distribution and drives the consideration of who should bear the risks and receive the rewards of participation in research.

The Washington State Institutional Review Board (WSIRB) is fully committed to ensuring diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice in the review, approval, and oversight of human subjects’ research. It is the WSIRB’s purpose and responsibility to safeguard the rights and welfare of all human participants of research involving Washington State Government Agencies, and to ensure justice and equity inform balancing the risks and access to the benefits of participation in research.

In accordance with the principles of respect for persons, justice, and beneficence – the three foundational tenets of the Belmont Report – the WSIRB holds that human participant research should strive to be broadly inclusive and representative of the populations whose experiences or conditions are the focus of the study - unless justified by scientific, ethical, or safety concerns - without exclusion on the basis of age, race, ethnicity, national origin, sex, gender, sexual orientation, language, disability, religion, socio-economic status, or other characteristics that distinguish people from one another.

As the IRB of record for seven Washington State Government Agencies, WSIRB supports the Department of Social and Health Services Pivot Model towards Proactive Equity, Antiracism, Access & Belonging. In the context of human subjects research, this requires not just that WSIRB staff and Board members review protocols for scientific and ethical integrity, but also encourage and support investigators in efforts to protect vulnerable populations, minimize risk, and promote equity of benefit.

The WSIRB is responsible for holding ourselves accountable - challenging internal biases, as well as any policies or practices that present barriers to achieving access, equity, and justice in human subjects research.

In accordance with the DSHS Pivot Model, WSIRB strives to:

  • Ensure that communities represented in research are thoroughly represented in the membership of our Board and that research review is guided by best practices, expertise, and lived experience
  • Continuously seek out and engage with historically excluded perspectives in the research community to mitigate bias and educate staff and members on equity, diversity, and inclusion topics
  • Foster a work/review environment without discrimination
  • Continuously update and maintain policies and procedures that are grounded in EDAI principles

WSIRB actively seeks Board members and consultants. More representation is encouraged from:

  • Foster parents
  • Employees from Local Health Jurisdictions (e.g., Tacoma Pierce County Health Department)
  • Tribal Epidemiology Centers (TEC)
  • American Indian Health Commission (AHIC)
  • Community organizations
  • Addiction recovery and advocacy groups
  • Members of Non-profits working with groups of interest
  • Formerly incarcerated individuals
  • Local Colleges and Community Colleges

If you are interested in learning more about joining the WSIRB, please feel free to contact us at wsirb@dshs.wa.gov. Prior experience with IRBs or in research is not required. WSIRB offers training in all applicable regulatory requirements, IRB policies, and meeting protocol, and regularly offers further education to all Board members.

For more information on how to join the WSIRB as a member or a consultant, please check out our Member information page