Permission vs. Consent: Is There a Difference? Yes!


LU students, faculty, and staff who plan to conduct research at institutions, organizations, facilities, or events—schools, churches, businesses, conferences, etc.—that are unaffiliated with the University and researchers who plan to utilize a membership list provided on an unaffiliated organization’s webpage are required to seek written permission from those outside groups to utilize them or their membership list for research studies. This will involve requesting permission in person or writing a permission request letter to the appropriate party. It is the responsibility of the researcher to determine from whom to seek permission.

The IRB provides a permission request letter template on its webpage, and we invite researchers to utilize the template to prepare their permission requests. The permission request letter does not need to be submitted to the IRB.

Researchers should request that permission letters be provided on approved letterhead and include the signature(s) of the appropriate official(s). Permission documentation that is not provided on letterhead with signature(s) (i.e., emailed permission) may have to be confirmed by the IRB. Confirmation is accomplished by email or a phone call to the party listed on the permission documentation.

Permission letters should consist of a broad statement indicating that the researcher will be allowed to conduct his or her study procedures at a specific facility or function. If the individual providing permission lists permissible procedures on the permission letter, the researcher should make sure that he or she has been granted permission to conduct all of the procedures outlined on the IRB application. If the researcher is not granted permission to conduct all of his or her planned procedures, the IRB will not be able to grant its approval, and the researcher may need to reconsider and possibly revise his or her planned protocol and IRB application.

If a facility refuses to grant permission prior to the researcher receiving LU IRB approval and the researcher has completed all requested IRB revisions to his or her research application, the IRB will conditionally approve the research application and issue a conditional approval letter to the researcher for the specified research study. Conditional approval WILL NOT allow the researcher to begin recruiting participants and collecting data, but the researcher will be able to provide the conditional approval letter to the appropriate official(s) to gain the needed permission letter.

Once received, permission letters will need to be submitted to the IRB. We will not be able to issue a complete approval prior to receiving all necessary permission letters. Copies of permission letters may be submitted by email as scanned pdfs to; by fax to 434-522-0506; or by mail, campus mail, or hand delivery to Green Hall, suite 1837. The IRB will save and file the letters with the researcher’s application and supporting documents and issue an approval letter enabling the researcher to begin his or her research study.

Cooperative Research

If a researcher plans to conduct his or her study at a facility that has its own IRB (e.g., another university, a hospital, or a prison), that facility’s IRB will also need to review the proposed study. These types of circumstances are referred to as cooperative research in the federal regulations, and while they may extend the time needed for complete approval, they are generally not as complicated or cumbersome as one might assume. The researcher is allowed to complete and submit a research application to one of the two or more institutions, frequently the site where they plan to conduct their research procedures, and the other institution(s) base their review on the researcher’s approved application from the research site. Because all IRBs abide by the same regulations, few if any changes are generally needed as a result of any subsequent reviews. 


Consent takes place when a researcher provides consent information (i.e., their IRB-approved informed consent document) in written or electronic form to potential participants for review or signature. The IRB provides a consent template that we encourage researchers to utilize. The consent document SHOULD NOT be used when seeking the above-described permission. Again, these are separate matters that require separate documents.