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Research Project Submissions

Learn more about the steps to conducting research at VA Houston.

Research at VA Houston Healthcare System can only begin after written notification of approval from the Associate Chief of Staff for Research (ACOS/R).

New to research at VA Houston?

If this is the first research project you are submitting to the VA Houston Research and Development (R&D) Committee, complete and submit the Investigator Profile to the Research Office

  • VA Form 10-5368, Investigator Profile (PDF)

Conducting research at VA Houston

1. Are you conducting research?

Research is the systematic investigation into and study of materials and sources to establish facts and reach new conclusions. The VA defines research (in VHA Directive 1200.05, dated January 7, 2019) as a systematic investigation, including research development, testing and evaluation, designed to develop or contribute to generalizable knowledge.

*Activities that meet this definition constitute research for VA purposes.

Sometimes, quality improvement projects and program evaluation can seem like research but may not fall under the VA definition above. Before you embark on your quest to conduct research, ensure that your project idea meets VA criteria for research.

If you have any questions, please confer with the Director of Research Quality Assurance and Regulatory Affairs

2. Eligibility to conduct research

Individual eligibility to conduct research or participate on a research project at the VA is dependent on

  • having a VA-appointment,
  • being credentialed and privileged as required, and
  • having an Associate Chief of Staff for Research (ACOS/R) approved research scope of practice on file with the Research Office.
     

VA Houston research or VA research is research conducted by VA investigators serving on compensated (VA full-time or part-time), work without compensation (WOC), or Intergovernmental Personnel Agreement (IPA) appointments while on VA time, utilizing VA resources (e.g., equipment, CPRS, staff, patients), or on VA property including space leased to, or used by VA.

The Principal Investigator (PI) must be a paid VA employee. Without Compensation (WOC) appointees cannot serve as a PI on a VA Houston study unless they have an approved WOC PI waiver of this requirement granted by the R&D Committee.

Without compensation (WOC) PI waiver

WOC employees who wish to serve as Principal Investigator (PI) on a VA Houston study must obtain an approved WOC PI waiver granted by the R&D Committee. 

The WOC PI waiver form is available within the eVACS Form under the Forms/Links tab. Submit the completed form to the Research Office for review by the Research & Development Committee. A letter, confirming or denying the waiver, will be sent via email to the applicant. Waivers are valid for the period of WOC appointment. Investigators may renew a waiver at the time of WOC renewal.

What is the difference between a VA and WOC appointment?

  • A VA-paid employee is an individual that has an official VA appointment and is compensated by the VA. 
  • A WOC employee is an individual that has an official VA appointment, but does not receive any salary or benefits from VA.

Individuals involved in human subjects research are required to have appropriate background investigations, be credentialed or have their qualifications validated, and be licensed when in positions requiring licensure.

All VA Houston research personnel that hold a U.S. medical license, credential, or have graduated from a U.S. medical school are required to be credentialed and privileged. All credentialed research personnel that are involved in VA research must provide the Research Office with a copy of their credentialing memo.
 

All individuals who participate in research at the VA Houston must have an approved scope of practice (SOP) that specifically defines their roles and responsibilities in the research protocol. 

*The PI is responsible for ensuring each study staff member works within their approved scope of practice.

Principal Investigator (PI) and Co-Investigator (Co-I) SOP

  • All Principal Investigators and Co-Investigators require an ACOS/R approved SOP on file with the RSL Training Coordinator. 
  • The PI SOP and Co-I SOP come in the form of a statement; each person will receive the appropriate statement from the training coordinator upon submission of a correct eVACS. Only one PI and/or Co-I statement is needed per person for the lifetime of your appointment at VA Houston.

Research Personnel, Study Staff, Research Team

  • Each person participating on a VA research project must have an ACOS/R approved SOP on file with the RSL Training Coordinator. 
  • The PI or research personnel should contact the RSL Training email group to initiate and seek approval of the SOP and any time research-related duties change or the research personnel works with a new PI. If the research personnel are performing the same research duties for the same PI on a new or multiple protocols a single SOP covers all those protocols.
     

3. Submission of protocol to subcommittee(s) and eVACS form, IRBNet, and the SPaRC checklist

A research project can only begin once the PI has been notified in writing by the ACOS/R that the project has been approved by the R&D Committee and all appropriate subcommittees.

If you have any questions, please contact the R&D Committee Coordinator
 

Subcommittees of the R&D Committee 

There are five subcommittees that report to the R&D Committee, which are as follows: 

  1. Baylor College of Medicine (BCM)’s Institutional Review Board (IRB),
  2. BCM’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC),
  3. BCM’s Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC),
  4. VA’s Central IRB (VA CIRB), and the
  5. Subcommittee for Research Safety (SRS)

For protocols that that do not fall under the purview of any other subcommittee such as science only protocols, the R&D Committee becomes the Committee of Record and is responsible for reviewing those protocols.

The eVACS serves as the coversheet and checklist for R&D Committee submission. It will guide the investigator to other applicable subcommittee and various other approvals that are needed.

Submit an eVACS Form to initiate VA Houston R&D protocol review and obtain ACOS/R approval to begin research. 

The R&D Committee strongly recommends submitting the IRB or IACUC protocol and eVACS at the same time to expedite ACOS/R approval.
 

New VA R&D approval process

All VA Houston research projects will require submission through IRBNet (VAIRRS).

If you have any questions, contact VHAHOURSL_IRBNetSubmission@va.gov for assistance. 

New VA research feasibility survey process

The Submission Pre-Review Checklist (SPaRC) is designed for VA Houston investigators to engage early in the submission process of non-VA funding sources as principal investigator (PI),  and in addition, local site investigator (LSI) participation on VA grants submitted by other stations for the purpose of ensuring feasibility of basic or clinical needs and VA resources.  

Utilize the SPaRC Decision Tree to determine whether your project requires administrative pre-review.

Email questions to VHAHOUProjectSubmission@va.gov.

4. Research & Development Committee (RDC) review 

The flowchart below provides an overview of the research protocol approval process at VA Houston. 

•    RDC Approval Process Overview (PDF)

Note: Projects submitted to ORD (VA Central Office) for funding must have a full review by the R&D Committee prior to submission to ORD. Such projects do not require subcommittee approvals prior to R&D review. See the VA Sponsored Awards page for more information.

RDC Committee meetings

The RDC meets on the third Monday of each month.

5. Associate Chief of Staff for Research and Development (ACOS/R) notification

The ACOS for Research and Development (ACOS/R) must ensure that you have received all appropriate approvals. You will be notified in writing (by the ACOS) when all approvals to conduct research have been granted.

Once all required approvals have been received (all subcommittee, R&D Committee, any other applicable committee/entity, and ACOS/R&D), you may begin your project.

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