Human Subjects Research


Harvard University policy and federal regulations require that all research involving human subjects that meets the federal regulatory definition of human subjects research be reviewed and approved by an Institutional Review Board (IRB) before the research begins. This requirement applies to all human subjects research meeting the federal definition conducted by faculty, staff and students, on and off campus, regardless of funding. The IRB for Harvard University Area researchers is the Committee on the Use of Human Subjects (CUHS).

The purpose of the IRB is to weigh risks and benefits of participation in research and to protect the rights and welfare of the research participants. The guiding ethical principles of the IRB,­ respect for persons, beneficence, and justice ­ are embodied in the "Belmont Report: Ethical Principles and Guidelines for the Protection of Human Subjects of Research."

Applications to the IRB must be submitted through the Electronic Submission, Tracking and Reporting system (ESTR). Please consult the CUHS website or contact CUHS at (617) 496-2847 or to find out more information about:

  • The types of research that require IRB review;
  • The process for submitting applications;
  • The training required for investigators and their Faculty Sponsors;
  • Appropriate forms, templates, and guidance documents;
  • And, the special process and training program for undergraduate research (

Committee on the Use of Human Subjects

Harvard University
44-R Brattle Street, Suite 200 (2nd Floor)
Cambridge, MA 02138
Phone: (617) 496-2847

CUHS Staff Contact Information