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Guidance on Closure of Human Subject Research Studies

Guidance on Closure of Human Subject Research Studies

A research study should be closed by the Principal Investigator (PI) once all human research activities are completed regardless of whether a study is subject to the continuing review requirement.  To do so, a closure form should be submitted to the IRB through the iRIS submission system for each non-exempt human research study (e.g., studies approved under Expedited review or Full Board review).  The closure form should be submitted before the expiration of IRB approval, however, the PI can also submit a closure form after they have received a notice of lapse of approval.

If the study is an exempt study, the PI may allow the IRB approval to expire. When approval of an exempt study expires, the IRB will administratively close the study, but this does not invalidate the exemption. The research, as proposed to the IRB, may continue; it is not necessary to keep the exemption actively registered with the IRB.

A closure form allows the IRB to have a summary of the following information:

  • the findings of the study
  • the final enrollment data
  • whether the study met the recruitment goals, and
  • whether any of the following events occurred since the last approval (initial or continuing review):
    • subject complaints
    • unanticipated problems involving risk to subjects or others,
    • unexpected profile of adverse events in terms of frequency and/or severity,
    • non-compliance with or deviation from the approved protocol or procedures,
    • audits, inspections or monitoring visits by internal or external personnel.
    • any publications, presentations, trademarks, patents, etc. related to the study.

This guidance explains the circumstances in which a non-exempt human research study may be closed from IRB oversight, as well as ongoing researcher responsibilities that apply to closed studies.


Things to Consider before Closing Research Studies

  • Investigators should honor wishes of the sponsor or funding source to keep the study open or to close the study.  Some funding entities require IRB approval for the duration of the funding, even if human research activities are complete, or they may not allow the study to close without the sponsor’s permission. It is the PI’s responsibility to be aware of, and comply with, those requirements.
  • Sponsors, contract research organizations (CROs), or coordinating center personnel may need to verify or monitor individually identifiable study data at a specific site where human subjects activities have been completed. The study team should verify whether these organizations require the studies to be open when conducting their monitoring visits. IRB approval must be maintained while these activities are occurring.
  • Whenever possible, prior to closing a study, data should be permanently de-identified.

When to Close a Study

  • For studies requiring continuing review (e.g., some Expedited studies and all full board studies ) a requests for closure should be submitted at the time the next continuation application is due or within 30 days after the completion of all study activity involving the use of private identifiable information or biospecimens, whichever comes first.
  • Moreover, a closure form should be submitted to the IRB if the if the research study was not conducted or was canceled, or if each of the following conditions exist:
    • The research is permanently closed to the enrollment of subjects
    • The subjects have completed all research-related interventions
    • The research is no longer active for long-term follow up of subjects
    • Data has been de-identified.
  • When a Principal Investigator terminates employment with UConn Health, the PI may submit a closure form to the IRB. Alternatively, the PI may submit a modification form requesting transfer of the study to another eligible Principal Investigator.   Retired investigators with Emeritus status at UConn Health may be permitted to keep the study open and continue as the PI with approval from the HSPP Director.
  • When a student-led project is completed, the study should be closed with the IRB.  This should occur prior to the student’s departure / graduation.


IRB Process of Expired studies, Lapsed Studies and Closure Forms

  • Expired studies : If approval for continuation of non-exempt research is not sought, or a request to extend the expected completion date has not been received within a reasonable time frame (e.g., 30 days), IRB staff will administratively close the study and send a written notification to the Principal Investigator of the administrative closure.  The research activity may not continue and a new application may be required to resume research activity.
  • Lapsed studies: If approval of the study has lapsed due to lack of a response to contingencies or a request for continuing approval or to extend the completion date has not been received the study may administratively be closed.  The IRB will send a written notification to the PI. Prior to closure the IRB will issue a final request for response by email to the PI and study contacts and the PI will be given a reasonable period within which to respond (e.g. one or two weeks).
  • Closure forms:  When a closure form is submitted, the IRB will review any new information provided in the closure form and determine whether any additional action is required on the part of the IRB or the investigator. Upon review of the closure form, the status of the study is changed in the iRIS system (e.g., “Closed by PI”) and an outcome letter is issued confirming the closure.

Principal Investigator Responsibilities with Closed Studies

The principal investigator (PI) continues to have responsibilities for a study even when IRB oversight of a study is no longer required. These responsibilities include:

  • Verifying all research activities have been completed. The PI should ensure that all research-related activities, interventions or interactions with human subjects or individually identifiable data have been completed at the site(s) approved under the Principal Investigator’s IRB application at the time a closure form is submitted to the IRB or at the time of approval expiration, whichever occurs first.

If after a study is closed, the PI wishes to engage in an activity such that the criteria for closure listed above would no longer be met, the Principal Investigator must submit a new application for IRB review and approval for the use of the previously collected data.

  • Record Retention Research data from the completed study should be stored and protected in the manner approved by the IRB and consented to by the research participant so as to maintain the privacy and confidentiality of the participants.

Per HSPP Policy 2011-024.0 – File Requirements & Record Retention Requirements, investigators must maintain research records for three years beyond the completion/termination of the study. Investigators should be aware that other laws and requirements (e.g., funding agency) may require a longer record retention period. Per the HIPAA regulation, investigators are to retain documents relating to uses and disclosures, authorization forms for 6 years from the date of creation or the date when it last was in effect, whichever is later.  Per the State of Connecticut records retention schedules, the retention period for signed research authorizations is six years after the study closure date, unless a longer retention period is specified in a contract with a sponsor/funding source in which case, the longer retention period specified in the contract must be followed.

Investigator should be familiar with the record retention format described in the UConn Health HSPP Policy 2015-024.1 – Record Retention Format.

Investigators should ensure that any specific regulatory and/or sponsor requirements are met for record retention or submission of reports.

  • Confidentiality and Data Security. If the PI is maintaining identifiable private data or specimens, the protections described in the IRB application and to subjects must be maintained for the time frame described. The PI must continue to honor any commitments made to participants as part of the approved research (e.g., providing information about study results; payment for research participation).
  • HIPAA authorization. The PI may have obtained HIPAA authorization from subjects to access their medical records, with an expiration date that is far in the future. If the PI still has permission to access medical records at the time they want to close the study that permission expires upon study closure.