Independent Research: Human Subjects
Any research that involves people can be considered human subjects research in a broad sense. Students who are interested in conducting independent research that will involve participants answering questions, completing surveys, filling out forms, following instructions, and/or being observed, or that involves receiving data about identifiable individuals, may need special approval.
All universities have an Institutional Review Board (IRB), which reviews research proposals involving humans and assesses whether or not the research can be approved. The approval is dependent upon the risk of harm to the research subjects.
This risk of harm can be physical, psychological, legal, or social and it is the job of the Columbia IRB to protect those who have voluntarily donated their time (even if they are compensated) in order to take part in any research that is conducted by a member of Columbia University.
Taking seriously the well-being of research participants is part of what makes a good researcher and a good research project.