Incorporating authentic research experiences in introductory biology laboratory classes would greatly expand the number of students exposed to the excitement of discovery and the rigor of the scientific process. However, the essential components of an authentic research experience and the barriers to their implementation in laboratory classes are poorly defined. To guide future reform efforts in this area, we conducted a national survey of biology faculty members to determine 1) their definitions of authentic research experiences in laboratory classes, 2) the extent of authentic research experiences currently experienced in their laboratory classes, and 3) the barriers that prevent incorporation of authentic research experiences into these classes. Strikingly, the definitions of authentic research experiences differ among faculty members and tend to emphasize either the scientific process or the discovery of previously unknown data. The low level of authentic research experiences in introductory biology labs suggests that more development and support is needed to increase undergraduate exposure to research experiences. Faculty members did not cite several barriers commonly assumed to impair pedagogical reform; however, their responses suggest that expanded support for development of research experiences in laboratory classes could address the most common barrier.