In a number of questions raised here, it has been implied / asserted that research involving human subjects which has not received IRB approval cannot be published. In my own area of research (which is not experimental), I know of no evidence for such a restriction by journal policy. I am therefore curious about the mechanics and nature of such restrictions. Are there journals with explicit policies of this type? I would especially be interested to know of examples in areas outside of the social sciences and medicine. I do, however, want to restrict the question to reputable journals (leaving it up to the experts to make the distinction).

There are a number of underlying questions that motivate this question, so I'm looking for the tools to answer them myself. For instance, in two highly-regarded experimental journals in my field, there is no public statement about requiring IRB approval, so I wonder where the enforcement comes in, and whether authors (especially independent researchers) are given fair notice prior to submission. Right now, I just want to know where there are (non-biomedical) journals that positively do have such a policy.

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    Outside the social sciences and medicine, human subject experimentation may be rare enough that journals don't bother to state an explicit policy. But that doesn't mean editors can't enforce it anyway. Commented Oct 2, 2015 at 17:37
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    Regarding enforcement, the main mechanism is retraction if lack of IRB approval comes to light (and presumably, threat of retraction may serve as a deterrent).
    – ff524
    Commented Oct 2, 2015 at 17:56
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    I can see the constructive side of this question, but at the same time, "tell me all the journals that require IRB approval" is kind of a "shopping question." Can you rephrase it so that the answer is not just a (potentially very very very long) list of journals? For example, something like "What is a typical journal policy statement indicating that submissions must have IRB approval?"
    – ff524
    Commented Oct 2, 2015 at 18:00
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    Just another piece of information: No only publishers, but I my funding agency also requires IRB/ethics... (FAPESP) Commented Oct 2, 2015 at 19:01
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    If that's what you want, then you should edit the question to say "Is there any journal outside the social sciences and medicine that has such a policy? Please provide an example if one exists". That's a much better question. Right now you just ask for a list of all journals, which is open-ended and there are a zillion possible answers, all valid.
    – D.W.
    Commented Oct 3, 2015 at 0:08

4 Answers 4


For example, here is the bioethics policy for the Nature journals. It includes the sentence:

For experiments involving human subjects, authors must identify the committee approving the experiments, and include with their submission a statement confirming that informed consent was obtained from all subjects.


From Springer:

When reporting studies that involve human participants, authors should include a statement that the studies have been approved by the appropriate institutional and/or national research ethics committee and have been performed in accordance with the ethical standards as laid down in the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.


Notice that those policies are not from any journal, but from the publisher, therefore encompassing all their publications.

  • This is an interesting example, because one of the journals that I looked at was a Springer journal. The policy doesn't seem to trickle down to the level that authors are likely to interface with.
    – user6726
    Commented Oct 2, 2015 at 17:46
  • This policy is potentially problematic since the 2013 amendment to the Declaration of Helsinki requires preregistration of studies, which has not cught on n in many fields.
    – StrongBad
    Commented Oct 2, 2015 at 18:20
  • As I said, they are still valid for all their publications, not only journals. In the authors guide, somewhere, they will mention the general rules for springer... Commented Oct 2, 2015 at 19:00

examples in areas outside of the social sciences and medicine

For an example far out side those areas, Physical Review journals require IRB approval "when applicable." Here is a somewhat rare example paper where IRB approval was obtained.


Some journals may not expressly have a policy because it's actually assumed that a lack of IRB approval would halt a research project from taking place well before the publication phase. For example, several Schools of Public Health require all work to go through IRB determination before they begin. Similarly, many funders require a statement of IRB approval.

Given that, some journal examples:

American Journal of Epidemiology: "If a study has involved any contact with human subjects or if it is otherwise appropriate, authors should state in their Methods section that their institution's review board has approved the study proposal, as well as the manner in which informed consent was obtained from subjects (if applicable). Authors should follow the principles outlined in the Declaration of Helsinki (41st World Medical Assembly. Declaration of Helsinki: recommendations guiding physicians in biomedical research involving human subjects. Bull Pan Am Health Organ. 1990;24:606-609)."

Epidemiology: "It is the authors' responsibility to verify that any study involving human subjects has been approved by the committee on research ethics at the institution where the research was conducted, in accordance with the Declaration of Helsinki of the World Medical Association. State in the manuscript that such approval was received and, where applicable, that study participants gave informed consent."

New England Journal of Medicine: "In appropriate places in the manuscript, please provide the following items: If applicable, a statement that the research protocol was approved by the relevant institutional review boards or ethics committees and that all human participants gave written informed consent"

The Royal Society: "For experiments involving human subjects, the committee approving the experiments should be identified and the research conducted according to the principles expressed in the Declaration of Helsinki. The authors should confirm that informed consent was obtained from all subjects."

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: "Research involving Human and Animal Participants and Clinical Trials must have been approved by the author's institutional review board. Authors must include in the Methods section a brief statement identifying the institutional and/or licensing committee approving the experiments. For all experiments involving human participants, authors must also include a statement confirming that informed consent was obtained from all participants, or provide a statement why this was not necessary. All experiments must have been conducted according to the principles expressed in the Declaration of Helsinki. Authors must follow the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors' policy and deposit trial information and design into an accepted clinical trial registry before the onset of patient enrollment. For animal studies, authors must report the species, strain, sex, and age of the animals."

The last two are definitively not social science/medicine only journals.

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