The Importance of a Faculty Sponsor for Student Researchers

The Importance of a Faculty Sponsor for Student Researchers

The Importance of a Faculty Sponsor for Student Researchers - Image

Faculty sponsors hold an important role in guiding students who are planning or are in the process of submitting IRB applications. They are often actively involved in the student’s research, from protocol design to data analysis and report preparation. Faculty sponsors should provide recommendations about research design aimed at reducing the risk to human subjects, while also serving as a point of contact for human subject concerns and questions.

A faculty sponsor is required on all student Institutional Review Board (IRB) protocols. 

Typically, a faculty sponsor can be:

  • All tenured and tenure-track Assistant, Associate, and Full Professors. 
  • All persons holding appointments as a Research Assistant Professor, Research Associate Professor, Research Professor, Extension Specialists, and Clinical Professors.
  • All persons holding Adjunct, Visiting, Emeritus or other faculty positions at Teachers College*

*Adjunct Lecturers are considered to be non-tenured faculty. Non-tenured faculty usually have contract positions and hold ranks such as lecturer, instructor, or visiting assistant professor. To ensure compliance in human subject research, non-tenure and non-tenure track faculty members at Teachers College (TC) must obtain a sign letter of support from their Department Chair or authorized designee. For more guidance please refer to the Guidance for Supporting Non-Tenure Faculty in Human Subjects Research to learn more about obtaining support.

A faculty sponsor is required on all student IRB protocols. 

Role & Responsibilities of a Faculty Sponsor

IRB administrators rely on faculty sponsors to guide students through research methods specific to the field of study and to stay informed regarding the rules and regulations governing research at this institution. 

A faculty sponsor guides a student by:

  • Evaluating whether the student investigator has sufficient knowledge and experience to conduct the proposed research, including the completion of required online human subjects protection training (CITI), and any other relevant and protocol-specific research-related training.
  • Developing ways to ensure the rights and welfare of human subjects involved in the study are protected.
  • Guiding students toward ethical research. 
  • Reviewing the research methods of the student research protocol prior to IRB submission.

Faculty sponsors typically:

  • Check the protocol for clarity and ease of understanding prior to IRB submission.
  • Verify scientific merit and appropriate study design for the relevant field of research.
  • Ensure that the student’s project meets the criteria for degree satisfaction.
  • Confirm adherence to field-specific codes of conduct. 
  • Remain informed of Teachers College’s (TC’s) policies and procedures, the published guidelines for the ethical conduct of research relevant to the field of inquiry, and state and federal regulations.
  • Offer the student guidance on the protection of human subjects as necessary.
  • Inform students not to begin research (including subject recruitment) until final written approval from the IRB has been obtained.
  • Provide ongoing supervision of the submission and conduct of the study, including advising the student on clarifications and changes requested by the IRB, monitoring the progress of the project, and ensuring continued adherence to the protocol and regulatory requirements (e.g., timely submission of unanticipated problems, challenges, concerns, reporting issues of noncompliance, using approved documents and tools, and avoiding over-enrollment of subjects).

TC Mentor IRB & Faculty Sponsors

When a student researcher submits a new protocol on TC Mentor IRB, they will be prompted to select a faculty sponsor from an auto-populated list (students should search via their last name). Once a protocol is submitted, the faculty sponsor will then be sent a Faculty Sponsor Notification from TC Mentor IRB, asking them to accept the faculty sponsor role for the student’s IRB protocol. Your faculty sponsor will also be able to see your protocol. Please note, this notification should not be the first time your faculty sponsor sees your protocol. Faculty sponsors can “accept” or “reject” the role. Faculty sponsors must approve a student’s IRB protocol before the IRB reviewers can see it. If the role is rejected, faculty sponsors are asked to follow up with the student researcher on the next steps. Please see TC IRB's How to Accept: Faculty Sponsor Guide for detailed instructions. 

All study team members, including faculty sponsors, must complete the required human subjects Training & Certification before the conduct or supervision of student research. Training is valid for a three-year period, after which time a refresher course must be taken. Please make sure that all members’ TC Mentor IRB profiles (including the student and faculty sponsor) are updated with the latest CITI training certificate. 

After an IRB protocol is approved, all study team members should be provided with a copy of the approved protocol, and be trained specifically to approved protocol requirements and processes. 

Students should be in frequent communication with their faculty sponsor during all stages of protocol development and submission. Faculty sponsors are the best point of contact for questions regarding ethical conduct, research design, review categories, and IRB procedures. When in doubt, students should defer to their faculty sponsor’s advice. Please make sure to reach out to your faculty sponsor before bringing questions to the IRB.

Back to skip to quick links