Membership information

Board Membership

If you would like to learn more about becoming a WSIRB Board member, or a WSIRB subject matter expert/consultant, information on member duties, requirements, training and meetings is described below.

The importance of representation in IRB membership is a central foundation of the federal research regulations.

(a) Each IRB shall have at least five members, with varying backgrounds to promote complete and adequate review of research activities commonly conducted by the institution. The IRB shall be sufficiently qualified through the experience and expertise of its members (professional competence), and the diversity of its members, including race, gender, and cultural backgrounds and sensitivity to such issues as community attitudes, to promote respect for its advice and counsel in safeguarding the rights and welfare of human subjects. The IRB shall be able to ascertain the acceptability of proposed research in terms of institutional commitments (including policies and resources) and regulations, applicable law, and standards of professional conduct and practice. The IRB shall therefore include persons knowledgeable in these areas. If an IRB regularly reviews research that involves a category of subjects that is vulnerable to coercion or undue influence, such as children, prisoners, [1]individuals with impaired decision-making capacity, or economically or educationally disadvantaged persons, consideration shall be given to the inclusion of one or more individuals who are knowledgeable about and experienced in working with these categories of subjects.

The federal guidelines, however, have always been intended as a starting point and not a limitation on the diversity of membership. WSIRB is always seeking new members and subject matter experts.

Member Responsibilities

Members of the Washington State Institutional Review Board (WSIRB) are expected to contribute time necessary to complete Board business.  The Review Board meets up to twelve times per year on the third Thursday of the month.  All Board members are expected to read all materials on the agenda that require full committee review and prepare to participate in the discussion. The reviewer checklist (including consent form requirements) is in IRB Manager.

Members should expect to spend approximately three to six hours per month reviewing Meeting Minutes, training materials, memos to board, proposals, continuation approval requests, and study amendment requests prior to each Board meeting.  Board Members have a legal and ethical responsibility for the thorough and careful consideration of all aspects of a study with regard to the protection of human subjects, as defined by federal and state law.  The training described below is essential to meeting Board responsibilities.  Board meetings generally last two to three hours. 

A list of agenda items that were reviewed under expedited review authority are included on the agenda for Board members’ information only.  Authority has been delegated to WSIRB staff from the Chair to allow staff to make decisions regarding expedited review.

Regular Board meetings are hybrid in format. At least twice a year, the Board will be invited to meet on the Capitol campus in Olympia. Most meetings, however, are held via webinar in order to accommodate our Board members who live throughout the State.

Primary Reviewer Assignments

On a rotating basis, Board members – both Full and Alternate members - will be asked to serve as primary reviewer for studies subject to full Board or expedited review.  Typically, one Board member is paired with one staff member for each review.

Full Board members are expected to serve as Primary Board Reviewer 3 to 4 times per year and attend at least 10 Board meetings a year.

Alternate Board members are expected to serve as Primary Board Reviewer 1 to 2 times per year and attend 2 meetings per year.

The role of primary reviewer requires approximately 6 to 8 hours of time to:

  • Read all documents submitted by the researcher;
  • Complete the WSIRB Reviewer Checklist available in the IRBManager system;
  • Meet with the staff reviewer to compare notes and come to consensus on findings;
  • If necessary, present to the full Board a summary of the study, the consensus findings of the Board and staff reviews for the Board to vote on, and make a recommendation to the full Board for approval/disapproval, deferral or conditions of approval;
  • For studies under full Board review, assist the staff reviewer to finalize the “Presentation of Elements to Cover/Review Summary”, the document used to guide the actual Board presentation and discussion; 
  • When applicable as determined by WSIRB staff, complete the above steps for continuation approval requests and study amendment requests for studies that require full Board review;   

Subject matter experts Subject matter experts (SME) or consultants are individuals with relevant research, employment, cultural, or lived experience who wish to contribute to the ethical review of research but do not undergo the training or take on the time commitment to become a full Board Member.

 In contrast to Full and Alternate Board members, the role of SME is not required to maintain Board membership or attend Board meetings if invited. Subject matter experts may be asked to represent their cultures, communities, organizations, or individual experiences and provide guidance to WSIRB staff about the Consultant’s area of expertise. Some examples include answering questions about methodology, explaining field-specific terms, and providing insight on the experiences of certain populations of Agency clients (like foster youth, or people who receive SNAP benefits).  Familiarity with proprietary databases (such as FamLink or ProviderOne) is also valued.  

The responsibilities of a subject matter expert are willingness and availability to answer emails, phone calls, or – rarely – the ability to attend short meetings in order to answer WSIRB staff questions or discuss specific issues relevant to the consultant’s area of expertise. This will be on a case-by-case basis and have no formal time requirement.

Board Member Training Requirements

Under the Washington State Agency Policy on Protection of Human Research Subjects, members of the Washington State Institutional Review Board are required to complete initial education and training in the protection of human research subjects, as well as participate in continuous training offered by WSIRB staff throughout the Board members’ tenure.

 WSIRB members – both Alternate and Full Board members – must complete the initial education and training requirement prior to serving as a voting member of the Review Board 

We recommend that Board members fulfill the initial training requirements through completion of the web-based human subjects protection training provided by CITI.  This training program takes approximately 4 to 5 hours to complete and can be completed over multiple sessions.  

To register for CITI, Review Board members should:

  1. Register at CITI, under “Washington State Government Agencies”
  2. Review the Institutional Instructions
  3. Submit completion report through CITI

Board members are also expected to attend in-service trainings provided during the meeting. Other continuing education opportunities are available throughout the year and cover a wide range of topics such as deep dives into specific regulatory components, discussion of guidance from federal agencies, representation and protection of vulnerable populations, diversity, equity, and inclusion in research and research review, changes in regulations and the IRB field and more.

For questions about completing training requirements, please contact the WSIRB staff at




[1] Unfortunately some of the language of the federal regulations remains outdated. Incarcerated individuals are referred to as “prisoners” throughout 45 CFR 46. The definition of a prisoner in the context of research regulations is, “any individual involuntarily confined or detained in a penal institution.”  This definition is not affected by state or local jurisdictional definitions of “prisoner.”  Ergo, individuals do not have to be DOC-involved to be considered prisoners in the context of research.