Human Subjects Protection

Note on the revised Common Rule

The Department of Justice is not a signatory on the revised Common Rule. DOJ is considering next steps regarding the revised Common Rule. Applicants to NIJ funding should follow the guidance found on this page.

Overview of Human Subjects Protection

To ensure that human subjects are adequately protected from unreasonable risks and properly informed of the potential harms and benefits from their participation in research, NIJ and recipients of its funds[1] are required to comply with Department of Justice regulations at 28 CFR Part 46 (Protection of Human Subjects). These regulations, often referred to as the "Common Rule," generally require that projects using federal monies for research involving human subjects are reviewed and approved by an Institutional Review Board (IRB) prior to the expenditure of federal funds for that research.

If IRB approval is required for a project, applicants must submit a copy of the IRB's approval as well as supporting documentation concerning the IRB's institutional affiliation, necessary assurances, etc., to NIJ prior to the initiation of any research activities that are not exempt from the requirements of 28 CFR Part 46.

Learn more about the “Common Rule.”

Informed Consent

Researchers must provide subjects with sufficient information, in an understandable format, so that they can make a voluntary decision whether or not to participate in the study. The informed consent process is fundamental in ensuring respect for persons and should serve to educate the subject about the research, the benefits and risks, and the voluntary nature of their participation.

Learn more about Informed Consent Requirements.

When to Submit

You are strongly encouraged to submit human subjects protection documentation at the same time you submit your grant application.

IRB review and submission may occur after an award is received but no funds will be released for research activities involving the human subjects component of the study until NIJ's human subjects protection officer receives the required documentation and the special conditions placed on the award to protect human subjects are removed. Failure to provide this information in a timely manner may cause significant delay in the start-up of a funded research award.

How to Submit

Human Subjects Protection Form

You are strongly encouraged to use the form Protection of Human Subjects Assurance Identification/IRB Certification/Declarations of Exemption (Common Rule) [pdf, 2 pages]. See NIJ-specific instructions (pdf, 1 page)

Following are some specific instructions for applicants of NIJ funding:

Box 1: Check Request Type: Original (New Award), Continuation, or Exemption (Do Not Use)

Box 2: Check Type of Award Mechanism: Grant, Contract, Cooperative Agreement, Fellowship, Other

Box 3: Insert National Institute of Justice as Name of Federal Department or Agency

Box 4: List Title of Application

Box 5: List Name as requested

Box 6: For Assurance Status of this Project, four options for response are provided:

Option 1) Assurance on file with HHS and IRB has approved. (NOTE: The Federalwide Assurance number, expiration date, and IRB registration number must be provided here. The Certification of IRB review and approval must also be provided.)

Option 2) Assurance on file with another Federal agency or department and IRB has approved. (NOTE: The Assurance number, expiration date, and IRB registration number must be provided here. The Certification of IRB review and approval must also be provided.)

Option 3) No Assurance has been filed. The institution declares that it will provide and Assurance and Certification of IRB review and approval upon request.
All applicants should check the third option unless the applicant has already submitted this research application to and received approval or exemption from an IRB with an Assurance on file.

Option 4) Exemption Status: Use this option only if one of the exemptions listed in the regulation applies. Your IRB approval of exemption memo must be provided, or you may apply for an exemption from NIJ. See Exemption Request Information.

Box 7: For Certification of IRB Review, if an Assurance is on file (that is, if Option 1 or 2 was selected in Box 6), two options for response are provided:

Option 1) Select this option if IRB approval was provided for this project, provide the date and indicate whether the approval was the result of a Full or Expedited IRB Review.

Option 2) Select this option if this project has not yet received IRB certification.

Box 8:Comments: If applicable, indicate that “This project will not involve human subjects.”

Boxes 10-17: Complete as indicated. The signing official must be a representative of the applicant institution, i.e., Director, Office of Sponsored Research or Chair, IRB.

Submitting Information Via a Signed Letter

You also may submit a letter, on institutional letterhead, signed by the IRB chairman that:

  • Includes the FWA number.
  • Includes the IRB review determination.
  • Addresses the relevant items from the form.
  • Includes as an attachment the IRB-reviewed and approved or exempted protocol


The regulations define certain categories of research that are exempt from IRB review, either because of the nature of the research itself or the manner in which the research is carried out. [See 28 CFR § 46.101(b).]

If the research is determined to be exempt from the regulations by an IRB, applicants must submit supporting documentation concerning the IRB's approval of the exemption. If the project does not involve human subjects, applicants must provide appropriate documentation to support the lack of human subject involvement. Applicants should review 28 CFR Part 46 to determine their individual project requirements.

Learn more about Exemption Request Information.


[note 1] This includes funding through grants, subgrants, contracts, subcontracts, cooperative agreements, and interagency agreements.

Date Modified: April 28, 2017