Research Approval Process

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

Beginning SY 2018-19, FCPS' Division Research Screening Committee (DRSC) will only review applications during six designated review windows with specific deadlines for submitting a complete application (see submission deadlines below).


SY 2018-19 Submission Deadlines

Anticipated Decision Dates

Tuesday, May 1

Tuesday, June 12

Monday, July 2

Monday, August 13

Tuesday, August 1

Tuesday, September 12

Monday, October 1

Monday, November 12

Monday, December 3

Monday, January 21

Friday, February 1

Friday, March 15


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

  1. A complete and signed DRSC application and all required supplementary materials (see the last page of the application for specific details of required supplementary materials);
  2. A signed sponsor commitment form sent in by the sponsor; and
  3. $25 application fee.

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 Wednesday, May 2 will begin the review process on Monday, July 2).


Researchers are responsible for ensuring applications list study activities with start dates after the anticipated decision dates.  Applications listing study activities 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 downloadable Division Research Screening 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.

Once approval is granted, a researcher will be notified. Data collection may proceed only after an appropriate Sponsor has been assigned. This assignment requires completion of the downloadable 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?

Each year FCPS sets windows during which data should not be collected at school sites.  These reserved windows reflect times that schools are very busy with beginning of year, testing, and end of year activities. Researchers should be aware that 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, 2018. Shorter periods at specific schools, grade levels, etc., may also prevent external data collection during certain additional timeframes. The RSC 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 the RSC 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.