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Ethics & Human Research

Returning Clinically Relevant Research Results to Participants: Guidelines for Investigators and the IRB

ABSTRACT In 2019, the revised Common Rule required informed consent documents for research to include a state-ment about whether clinically relevant research results would be returned to research participants. While there are national discussions regarding the return of results, these do not provide specific guidance about how institutional review boards (IRBs) should address this issue. Through a year-long process involving IRB staff and leadership, science and bioethics faculty members, community IRB members, and others, Indiana University’s human research protection program created a framework that offers a clear categorization of types of results for researchers to consider returning, provides language for informed consent documents, and describes an active but intentionally limited role for the IRB. In this article, we describe this framework and its rationale as a model for other universities and, more generally, as a model for balancing the need to protect human subjects with efforts to limit the burdens on researchers and the IRB.

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