The Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC) has been established by the University Council to ensure the ethical conduct of research involving humans by staff and students within the University and to provide assistance to staff and students in the consideration of ethical issues involved in research.
All human research must follow the ethical guidelines that are explained in the National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research
All research involving the use of human participants requires approval from the Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC) or the Faculty Ethics Subcommittee.
The University Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC) has responsibility for review of:
- all staff research
- Masters by Research
- Professional Doctorate
- undergraduate, Honours and Masters by Coursework, which are deemed to be greater than "low risk" research
The Faculty Ethics Sub-Committees have delegated authority to review and approve the projects undertaken by:
- undergraduate, Honours and Masters by Coursework, which are deemed to be "low risk" research
The primary role of the HREC is to protect the welfare and the rights of participants in research.
The HREC has responsibility for considering and approving any research activity that involves human participation or definable human involvement and has as its purpose the establishing of facts, principles or knowledge or of obtaining or confirming knowledge. The HREC must also evaluate the merit of the research and determine whether it is justifiable in terms of its potential contribution to knowledge. The research must be based on a thorough study of current literature and must be conducted or supervised only by persons or teams with the experience, qualifications and competence appropriate to the research.
The HREC also has the delegation and authority to monitor all approved research projects.
The primary responsibility of each member of the HREC is to decide, independently, whether, in his or her opinion, the conduct of each research proposal submitted to the HREC will so protect participants.
The HREC is also responsible for:
- Recommending to the University Council guidelines for the conduct of ethical research.
- Recommending to the Research and Development Committee or any other committee of the University on matters relating to the conduct of ethical research.
- Recommending to the University Council on any matters relating to the conduct of ethical research.
- Providing assistance to staff in the consideration of ethical issues involved in research.
- Considering the ethical issues of approved research proposals submitted by staff and research students (Masters by Thesis and PhD students only) for research projects involving human subjects and providing clearance for those proposals judged to meet the guidelines for the conduct of ethical research.
- Delegating the authority to Faculty-based Human Research Ethics Sub-Committees to provide ethics clearance for projects involving the use of human subjects, for students at Honours level, Masters by project level, and for projects undertaken by undergraduate students.
The Committee is composed of people from the following categories:
- a chairperson
- at least two members who are lay people, one man and one woman, with no affiliation with ECU who are not currently involved in medical, scientific or legal work;
- at least one person with knowledge of and current experience in the areas of research relevant to ECU;
- at least one member with knowledge of, and current experience in, the professional care, counselling or treatment of people;
- at least one member who is a minister of religion, or a person who performs a similar role in a community such as an Aboriginal elder;
- at least one member who is a lawyer.
On occasion, in order to ensure that the HREC is sufficiently informed on all aspects of a research proposal, the appointment of additional members with specific expertise may be necessary.
The Research Ethics Officer acts as Executive Officer to the HREC.
Appointments, including re-appointments, to the HREC are made by Academic Board after taking into account the Committee's nominations for appointments to vacancies.
Meetings of the Human Research Ethics Committee are held monthly.
Business discussed at meetings may include the following:
- Ratification of applications approved by the HREC
- Ratification of applications approved by the Faculty Ethics Subcommittees
- Noting of applications pending
- Noting of progress reports and final reports provided by researchers
- Discussion of applications involving complex issues
- Discussion with researchers invited to attend the meeting
- Discussion regarding new developments and/or issues that impact on the consideration of applications
- Consideration of information and new developments that may impact the welfare and the rights of participants in research