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The University of Portland Human Subjects Institutional Review Board (IRB) serves as a safeguard to address the rights of participants in human subjects research undertaken with or by members of the University of Portland community. Although the primary responsibility for treating research participants in an ethical and responsible manner lies with the principal investigator (or in the case of students, the faculty advisor), the Human Subjects IRB is responsible for considering whether research is undertaken in compliance with relevant guidelines defined by the United States Government’s Office for Human Research Protections (OHRP).

As is the case with almost all colleges and universities, the University of Portland has agreed to the OHRP Federalwide Assurance (FWA) dictating that human subjects research adhere to the Department of Health and Human Services Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) title 45 part 46. According to these guidelines, "research means a systematic investigation, including research development, testing and evaluation, designed to develop or contribute to generalizable knowledge” (45 CFR 46.102(d)). Likewise, "a human subject is a living individual about whom an investigator (professional or student) conducting research obtains 1) data through intervention or interaction with the individual, or 2) identifiable private information" (45 CFR 46.102(f)).

The University of Portland Human Subjects IRB approaches compliance with a recognition that human subjects research constitutes a broad and diverse range of activities, and thus the committee’s interpretation of guidelines requires some dialogue with the accepted practices and ethics of distinct disciplines and epistemologies.