CIRTification: A Resource for Educating Patient and Community Research Partners about Human Research Protections

Are investigators at your institution engaging patient and community partners in research? Some of these partners will need training in human research protections—particularly if they will be responsible for recruiting participants, obtaining informed consent, or collecting data. Your HRPP may have a required training program, but this may not be ideal for community research partners.

CIRTification Online is a free web-based human research protections training program developed specifically for community research partners. It covers standard content but with several features that address the distinct context of patient and community stakeholder-engaged research and the particular needs of partners who will be working on research projects for the first time. The program takes about four hours total and can be completed in multiple sessions.

Below are just a few of the reasons that CIRTification is an effective human research protections training program for patient and community research partners: 

CIRTification is interactive and user friendly. It includes audio and video as well as text and images. Research concepts, research ethics principles, federal regulations, and recommended practices are described in plain language. CIRTification is easy to navigate, with a variety of enhancements to keep the learner interested and interactive exercises to reinforce new concepts through application in different scenarios.

CIRTification assumes limited familiarity with research practices or terminology. Before introducing rules and regulations, learners are oriented to the research environment. There is an overview of the processes, tasks, terminology, and people involved in research—including the IRB. Learners can quickly find definitions of key research terms throughout the training—and download and print a dictionary for future reference.

CIRTification addresses ethical dilemmas that arise on the front lines of research. Day-to-day interactions with research participants are at the center of the curriculum. Case scenarios cover topics such as applying study eligibility criteria, answering participant questions about risks and benefits, addressing participants concerns about voluntariness, protecting participant privacy and confidentiality when working in one’s own community, and maintaining appropriate boundaries with participants.

CIRTification focuses on the process of informed consent. Video vignettes show that informed consent involves dialogue with potential participants and time for questions, answers, and deliberation before obtaining a signature.  Examples of recruitment materials and informed consent documents are included. 

CIRTification was developed with input from key stakeholders. Community research partners, academic investigators conducting community engaged research, and HRPP professionals provided substantive input during the development of CIRTification. These multiple perspectives ensure that critical content is covered using understandable language and real-world examples.

CIRTification emphasizes community partners’ critical roles in promoting the ethics and integrity of research. Community engagement is framed as an important means of protection against exploitation and advancing respect for research participants. CIRTification aims not only to teach community partners about the importance of protecting research participants but also to empower them to be active contributors to their respective research teams.

CIRTification Online is available free to anyone who wants to use it. Once the learner passes a final quiz, they receive a dated certificate of completion. Additionally, your institutional HRPP can also arrange to set up site administrator rights. Learners can then associate their accounts with your institution, and a representative from your HRPP can access training records for all associated learners.

Please contact us at for more information or access to a demo version of the online program. You can also find more information and a link directly to enroll at CIRTification Online.

CIRTification Online is currently available in English only, but production of the Spanish version is in progress and should be available in 2021. A facilitator manual for in-person training is also available on the website in English and Spanish.

About Us
CIRTification was developed by Emily E. Anderson, PhD, MPH, a research ethicist and associate professor of bioethics at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine’s Neiswanger Institute for Bioethics and Healthcare Leadership. CIRTification Online is supported by the University of Illinois at Chicago Center for Clinical and Translational Science (UIC CCTS-Grant UL1TR002003), where Emily serves as Director, Regulatory Knowledge and Support Core.

Jake Palumbo serves as CIRTification Outreach Coordinator. Jake holds a BA in English and minors in Biology and Neuroscience from Occidental College. As a Research Specialist in the Center for Clinical and Translational Science at the University of Illinois Chicago, Jake provides technical and administrative support for the CIRTification program and the Community Engagement Core.

We are grateful for input from community partners, human research protection program administrators, academic researchers, research ethicists, and education specialists. The training site includes the full list of contributors.