PURPOSE: To explore clinician educators' perceptions and experiences in obtaining institutional review board (IRB) approval to conduct medical education research (MER). METHOD: Institutional members of the Clerkship Directors in Internal Medicine (CDIM; n = 110) were surveyed in 2006. The survey included questions about familiarity with and clarity of IRB policies, satisfaction with review of education research protocols, and how MER might be facilitated. RESULTS: Of 83 respondents (response rate 76%), 50 had submitted a MER protocol to an IRB. Nearly all were deemed exempt (74/154) or minimal risk (71/154). No protocols were rejected or not approved. Nearly a fourth of respondents were unfamiliar with specific IRB policies directly applicable to MER. Among those respondents who had some familiarity with the IRB policies specified, 47% to 52% considered the IRB policies clear. Eighteen of 30 (60%) respondents with recent experience in multiinstitutional MER agreed there were notable differences in the expectations of various institutional IRBs; only two reported that multiple IRB reviews resulted in improvements to the protocol. Half (37/73) indicated they would be more likely to conduct MER if they had a better understanding of the IRB's role and requirements in MER. Sixty-six of 73 (90%) agreed they would benefit from a national consensus statement regarding the IRB's role in MER. CONCLUSIONS: A high percentage of clinician educators in CDIM are conducting IRB-approved MER. They report several challenges with working with IRBs, and they agree that IRBs and clinician educators would benefit from a national consensus on the IRB's role in MER.