The federal government has identified certain categories of research involving human subjects that qualify for exemption from federal regulations. UM is authorized by the federal government to determine whether studies thought by the PI to be exempt from federal regulations -- actually qualify for exemption. Only the IRB has authority to make a determination that a study is exempt from federal regulations and from IRB review and approval. When the IRB notifies a PI that a research project is EXEMPT, it also notifies the PI that the research is approved for initiation or continuation. In order to qualify for exemption, a research study must fall entirely within one or more of the six categories for exemption and it cannot place subjects at greater than minimal risk. If the research involves prisoners, then it does not qualify for exemption from federal regulations and IRB review.
What Exemption Means: "Exemption" as used in this document means exemption from the requirements set forth in Regulations for the Protection of Human Subjects (45 CFR 46), such as the requirement for a written informed consent document.
What Exemption Does Not Mean: "Exemption" does not mean that the research activity is exempt from the law, and it does not mean that the research need not conform to the canons of sound research ethics.
For additional information regarding Exempt Review categories, see OHRP Decision Charts #2-7 for Exempt Categories.