Research Approval Process

Data collection and research efforts within Fairfax County Public Schools require approval

Due to capacity issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic, until further notice, FCPS will support neither voluntary recruitment of or data collection from FCPS staff, students, or parents nor data release of existing data. FCPS will review and may provisionally approve recruitment, and data collection for the 2020-21 school year on the condition that these activities occur in accordance with timelines agreed upon with FCPS after the Division has returned to normal operating status. Due to capacity concerns, data release requests for already existing data are also likely to be provisionally approved with data provided only after FCPS returns to normal operating status. 


FCPS' Division Research Screening Committee (DRSC) reviews applications during seven designated review windows with specific deadlines (see below):


SY 2020-21
Submission Deadlines

Decision Dates

Friday, May 1, 2020

Friday, June 12, 2020

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Friday, August 14, 2020

Monday, August 3, 2020

Friday, September 18, 2020

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Friday, November 13, 2020

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Friday, January 22, 2021

Monday, February 1, 2021

Friday, March 19, 2021

*Thursday, April 1, 2021

*Friday, May 14, 2021

* April deadline is only for studies requesting data release. Studies proposing new data collection during the 2020-21 school year are considered only if submitted for review between May 2020 and February 2021. 


A complete application means that all of the following documentation have been received:

  1. A complete and signed Division Research Screening Committee Application and all required supplementary materials (see the last page of the application for specific details of required supplementary materials);
  2. A signed Sponsor Responsibilities and Commitment Form submitted by the sponsor; and
  3. $25 application fee. (Beginning May 1, 2020, all application fees must be paid through MySchoolBucks. Paper checks will not be processed. More information about paying through MySchoolBucks is available on the last page of the application.)

Complete application will receive verification via email of the date (submission deadline) on which the application will enter review.


Applications that are incomplete will not enter the review process and will be reviewed at the next submission deadline provided they are complete (e.g., an application that becomes complete on Thursday, May 2, will begin the review process on Monday, July 1).


Researchers are responsible for ensuring applications list study activities with start dates after the anticipated decision dates.  Applications with start dates before the anticipated decision date will be rejected.

What is external research?

Only approved external research or data collection is allowed within Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS).  As the Superintendent’s designee, the Office of Research and Strategic Improvement ensures that data collection and research efforts conducted within FCPS comply with School Board Policy 1475 and its associated Regulation 1475.

  • This policy applies to all requests to conduct research (e.g., surveys, special testing, interviews, focus groups, record reviews, or record observations) involving data collection from students or employees or access to FCPS student or employee non-public data.
  • Student requests to conduct research for science fairs and non-course related research are also covered by this policy.

How is external research approved?

Three committees (Division Research Screening Committee; School Research Screening Committee; Student Scientific Review Committee) are responsible for approving external research conducted in FCPS.  These committees make every effort to ensure:

  • Protection of privacy of FCPS students and staff and compliance with state and federal laws.
  • All parties acknowledge that participation in research is voluntary.
  • Anonymity of the Fairfax County Public Schools division, individual schools, and all individual persons participating is preserved in reporting the results.
  • Limited interference upon instructional time and the educational process including scheduled testing and end-of-year activities at schools.

How do I apply?

Detailed information on each committee and how to apply are available in FCPS’ External Research Resource Guide. Applying for research approval to the Division Research Screening Committee requires a $25 application fee and completion of the Division Research Screening Committee Application.  Applying to either the School Research Screening Committee or the Student Scientific Review Committee does not require a fee. The appropriate review committee is determined by the type of applicant and the purpose of the research (see also question below about minimal risk):

  • FCPS Employees collecting non-job related data for:
    • Graduate coursework/personal projects and master’s thesis at a single school apply to the School Research Screening Committee.
    • Graduate coursework/personal projects and master’s thesis at multiple sites or division; doctoral dissertations apply to the Division Research Screening Committee.
  • Non-FCPS employees collecting data for:
    • PTA requests for affiliated school, community organizations (Girl Scouts, etc.) covering a single school) apply to the School Research Screening Committee.
    • Profit/non-profit organizations and government requests; doctoral dissertations; requests involving more than minimal risk; all other requests apply to the Division Research Screening Committee.
  • Students collecting data for:
    • International science fair competitions and human research with results disseminated outside the classroom apply to Student Scientific Review Committee.

Data collection may proceed only after an appropriate sponsor has been assigned. The sponsor must complete the Sponsor Responsibilities and Commitment Form

Does FCPS approve studies with more than minimal risk?

Minimal Risk is the probability and magnitude of harm or discomfort anticipated in the research, which are not greater in and of themselves than those ordinarily encountered in daily life or during the performance of routine physical or psychological examinations or tests.  Any proposed study that may involve more than minimal risk must be submitted to the Division Research Screening Committee which will determine whether more than minimal risk exists. FCPS does not approve studies with more than minimal risk.

When can approved external data collection occur?

FCPS sets reserved windows during times that schools are very busy with beginning of year, testing, and end of year activities. An application scheduling data collection during these reserved windows is unlikely to be approved and should seek data collection periods that do not overlap with the reserved windows. For SY 2018-19, the reserved windows are August 13 – September 14, 2018, and April 15 – June 7, 2019. For SY 2019-20, the reserved windows are August 12 – September 13, 2019, and April 13 – June 5, 2020. Shorter periods at specific schools, grade levels, etc., may also prevent external data collection during certain additional timeframes. The DRSC strongly suggest researchers apply as soon as possible to ensure availability of intended data collection windows. Researchers should work with their sponsor prior to applying to ensure sites do not have prior data collection commitments as FCPS typically approves only one data collection activity at a time per participant. Sponsors may use the data collection calendar available on the intranet webpage for Internal Surveys to help the researcher plan around timeframe availability; access to this calendar is limited to FCPS employees.  

Whom should I contact if I have more questions?

For general questions about external research approval or questions specific to the Division Research Screening Committee: Contact the Office of Research and Strategic Improvement by telephone at 571-423-1430 or via email at

For questions specific to the School Research Screening Committee: Contact the Principal at the specific school at which you wish to conduct your data collection.

For questions specific to the Student Scientific Research Committee: Contact the Office of PreK-12 Curriculum and Instruction, Science Section, at 571-423-4780.