Background Biomedical research is overseen by numerous Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) in Singapore but there has been no research that examines how the research review process is perceived by the local research community nor is there any systematic data on perceptions regarding the review process or other research ethics processes and IRB characteristics. The aim of this study was to ascertain general views regarding the overall perceived value of ethics review processes; to measure perceptions about local IRB functions and characteristics; to identify IRB functions and characteristics viewed as important; and to compare these views with those of other international studies. Methods An online survey was used with the main component being the IRB-Researcher Assessment Tool (IRB-RAT), a validated tool, to evaluate perceptions of ideal and actual IRB functions and characteristics held by Singaporean researchers and research support staff. Data were analysed descriptively first, with mean and SD of each item of IRB-RAT questionnaire reported, excluding the respondents whose answers were unknown or not applicable. The Wilcoxon Sign Rank test was used to compare the ideal and actual ratings of each IRB-RAT item, while the Mann-Whitney U test was used to compare the ratings of each IRB-RAT item between respondents with different characteristics. The Z-test was used to compare the mean ratings of our cohort with the mean ratings reported in the literature. The correlation between our mean ideal scores and those of two international studies also employing the IRB-RAT was examined. Results Seventy-one respondents completed the survey. This cohort generally held positive views of the impact of the ethics review process on: the quality of research; establishing and maintaining public trust in research; the protection of research participants; and on the scientific validity of research. The most important ideal IRB characteristics were timeliness, upholding participants' rights while also facilitating research, working with investigators to find solutions when there are disagreements, and not allowing biases to affect reviews. For almost all 45 IRB-RAT statements, the rating of the importance of the characteristic was higher than the rating of how much that characteristic was descriptive of IRBs the respondents were familiar with. There was a significant strong correlation between our study's scores on the ideal IRB characteristics and those of the first and largest published study that employed the IRB-RAT, the US National Validation (USNV) sample in Keith-Spiegel et al. . Conclusions An understanding of the perceptions held by Singaporean researchers and research support staff on the value that the ethics review process adds, their perceptions of actual IRB functions and characteristics as well as what they view as central to high functioning IRBs is the first step to considering the aspects of the review process that might benefit from improvements. This study provides insight into how our cohort compares to others internationally and highlights strengths and areas for improvement of Singapore IRBs as perceived by a small sample of the local research community. Such insights provide a springboard for additional research and may assist in further enhancing good relations so that both are working towards the same end.