AAHRPP will review the application materials and might request some revisions or additional documentation. Once all the information is complete, AAHRPP staff will schedule your site visit, usually within three months of when the final application is submitted. Depending on the size and scope of your organization, the site visit will last from two to four days and involve from two to six visitors.
Before the visit
Four to eight weeks before
AAHRPP will send an initial email with a draft agenda for the site visit and other information to help you get ready. This initial email helps establish contact between the Organization and the Accreditation Director and other AAHRPP staff who will work together to answer your questions relating to accreditation and the site visit. This email includes:
One week before
- A list of members of your Organization who will be interviewed, along with a proposed schedule of interview times. Review the agenda, and make sure it includes the appropriate people. Then, begin preparing them for the site visit. You can make changes to the agenda, but let AAHRPP know as soon as you can. AAHRPP will accommodate your requests for changes when possible. If necessary, conduct mock interviews so that staff will be better prepared to address the questions asked during the meeting with the AAHRPP team.
- An explanation of the types of meetings that will occur during the site review: the introduction, program overview, interviews, record review and executive session, daily closeout, lead contact review, and final closeout.
- A list of the individuals who will be members of your site visit team. If you have questions about the members of your site visit team, ask AAHRPP.
- A request for logistical and travel information, such as the location of the nearest airport and recommendations for lodging and meals.
- A request that you set aside a certain number of rooms that can be used exclusively by the site visit team during the visit.
- A request for any additional information about your Organization that is not included in the application but could influence the site visit. For example, if you use an electronic system that requires special permission for the site visit team to access it, let AAHRPP know early on.
AAHRPP will send a second email five business days prior to the start of the site visit. This email includes a final agenda, other logistical details, and a list of the records and documents you must have ready for the site visitors on the first day of the site visit.
The list of documents is mostly protocol files. The number of requested documents ranges from 10 to 100, depending on the size of your organization. Most organizations are asked to pull 20 to 30 protocol files.
During the visit
Following are brief descriptions of some key meetings that will occur during the site visit:
- Introduction session. This typically includes the site visit team, the lead contact from your organization, the organizational official, and other staff members that you would like to invite. Team members will describe the accreditation process. This is also an ideal time for representatives of your Organization to ask questions.
- Program overview. The program overview is an opportunity for site visitors to ask questions about your organizational structure and how your Human Research Protection Program functions within your Organization. Invite the people who are most involved with the overall operation of the Human Research Protection Program. Include the lead contact and key managers of the institutional review board, Human Research Protection Program, and compliance oversight. Attendees should be able to answer questions and present overviews on how various components of your organization interact.
- Interviews. These are confidential and are limited to the individuals listed on the agenda, unless other arrangements have been made in advance.
- Closedout session. Site visitors will provide both a high-level overview, including strengths and weaknesess for each Domain, and specific observations about each Standard. They will mention the types of issues that will be noted in the Draft Site Visit Report. Site visitors may provide suggestions but these will not be included in the report. Senior leadership as well as individuals who are intimately involved in the operations of your Human Research Protection Program should attend this session.
After the visit
AAHRPP will provide a Draft Site Visit Report to you within 30 days of the last day of the site visit. While waiting for the report, debrief everyone who was interviewed during the site visit. This can help you anticipate some of the comments you might see in the Draft Site Visit Report. Take a breather, but remain focused on accreditation. Review the notes you took during the site visit, and begin working on improvements that will address the observations that the site visitors reported.
- Once you receive the report, study the observations and ask AAHRPP for clarifications. Your response is due to AAHRPP within 30 days. Pay attention to the due date in the letter you receive along with the Draft Site Visit Report. This deadline is strictly observed. See Instructions to Prepare a Response to a Draft Site Visit Report.
- Respond to any errors of fact. If you have made any changes to your Human Research Protection Program since the site visit, make sure to note those changes in your response.
- For some Organizations, the response and resulting corrections involve more work than expected. If the report includes a lot of observations, pick a few and respond well.
- If you plan to send a response to AAHRPP, have staff available to assist you. Although a significant amount of the work in achieving accreditation is finished by the end of the site visit, your response to the Draft Site Visit Report is an integral part of your application. The application process does not end until you have submitted your response.