IRB Working to Ensure Safety of Research Participants During COVID-19

Research activities at Cal Poly Pomona will continue amid COVID-19.  The Institutional Review Board (IRB), which is chaired by Associate Professor Heather Wizikowski in the Department of Education, is working diligently to ensure the safety of all researchers and human subjects involved in research projects.

In a statement about IRB’s response to COVID-19, Wizikowski said, “We encourage all researchers, both faculty and students, to communicate with your departments and research sites early to determine how the COVID-19 situation may affect your research timetable, especially those of you doing research in public spaces, such as K-12 schools. We also encourage researchers to take every possible precaution to protect the spread of the COVID-19 virus and continue to self-isolate until state officials recommend otherwise. All ethical guidelines for human subjects research remain the utmost priority during this time.

If it is possible to amend approved protocols or revise protocols in process to safeguard both the participants and researcher(s), we encourage you to do so. This may include delaying a study if possible or moving interviews to a virtual format. The amendment process can be done within Cayuse. In addition, we expect that all domestic and international travel for research purposes as representatives of CPP be suspended through May 31st as directed by President Coley.”

Wizikowski was appointed as chair in September 2018. She has served on the IRB as an alternate and as a voting member for six years.  Some of her recent accomplishments include serving as principal investigator for a $1.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to help alleviate the shortage of special education teachers in Southern California. She is also co-director of the Integrated Teacher Education Program at CPP, which supports students who desire to teach children with disabilities.

As IRB chair, she manages the board and any matters brought before it. She is also responsible for conducting meetings, which are now held via Zoom.

“Serving on the board was appealing to me because of the importance of the work being done,” said Wizikowski. “Ethics in research has always been of interest to me, especially in the field of K-12 education. I saw serving on the board as a way to really impact university work in a positive way. I was also interested in seeing the types of research happening at CPP. Serving on the board has also given me many opportunities to meet colleagues from outside of our college and form strong relationships with them.”

The IRB at CPP reviews and has the authority to approve, require modifications, or disapprove research activities affiliated with the university. The IRB is required to protect the rights and welfare of research subjects as outlined by federal law.  Before any human subject is involved in research in relationship to CPP, the IRB must consider several factors including risks to the subjects, the anticipated benefits to the subjects and others, the informed consent process to be implemented and more.

To receive up-to-date information about COVID-19 and research activities at CPP, please visit