What is research ethics?
Do I need to apply for ethics approval?
Why do I need ethics approval?
When should I apply for ethics approval?
How do I apply for ethics approval?
How is an application assessed by the Ethics Committee?
Who are the members of the Ethics Committee?
What if there are risks associated with my research?
What happens if I disagree with the Ethics Committee decision about my application?
What if I have a complaint about a research project or the Ethics Committee?
What else is required once my application has been approved?
What happens if I need to change your research plan after it has been approved?
What if I need an extension of ethics approval?
Who do I contact for further information?
Ethics is about making sure that the work and research we do does not hurt others and ourselves. Research ethics is the study, practice and monitoring of ethical conduct in research
In plain language, research ethics is the way in which people who provide data should be treated by researchers
It is a basic assumption of the University that research staff and students are committed to high standards of professional conduct. Researchers have a duty to ensure the integrity of their work and that their research enhances the good name of the University and the profession to which they belong. Researchers are also required to observe ethical, professional and legal responsibilities in the conduct of research.
Ethics approval helps to ensure that research complies with established guidelines such as the National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research, the Animal Welfare Act (2002) and the Australian Code of Practice for the Care and Use of Animals for Scientific Purposes.
Researchers should only participate in work which conforms to accepted ethical standards and which they are competent to perform. Researchers have an obligation to achieve and maintain the highest standards of intellectual honesty in the conduct of their research. Ethics approval protects participants (human and animal), the researcher, the University and the community in general.
All staff and students must apply for ethics approval PRIOR TO the recruitment of participants and/or the commencement of any data collection. Retrospective ethics approval cannot be granted.
Where research projects require approval from the Ethics Committee, research must not proceed without formal notification of approval. The University's Office of Research and Innovation will not release research funds until approval has been obtained. Similarly, faculties will not release funding to support research conducted by postgraduate students before formal approval of a research proposal and ethics clearance has been granted.
All ethics applications are completed online using STREAM – System for Tracking Research Ethics Applications and Monitoring.
The procedures section also provides further details on how to prepare and submit an ethics application.
The Ethics Committee independently reviews and assesses the proposed conduct of research projects in order to identify any ethical issues or obligations and to ensure that these are satisfactorily addressed by the researcher. Ethics committees use approved guidelines in the assessment of research studies. The primary purpose of these guidelines is to ensure:
- the humane care of animals used for scientific purposes, including teaching;
- the protection of the welfare and the rights of human participants.
The secondary purpose is to facilitate research that is, or will be, of benefit to the researcher's community or humankind.
Members of the ethics committees come from a variety of backgrounds, and include members that are part of ECU and external to the University. As the members of the committee may not be experts in your research field, please ensure that the application is completed in language that is easily understood. If the members of the ethics committee are unfamiliar with the research, they may request further information, or refer the application to someone with expertise in the area for their opinion.
Some research projects will involve minimal risk to participants, i.e no more than normal, everyday risk, or may involve only observation of animals. In other research projects, there may be more risk involved either to participants, animals or to the researcher. It is important that these risks are identified, and the research methodology is able to minimise the likelihood of the risk occurring, and/or provides a proposed management plan to account for any risk.
The aim of the Ethics Committees is to facilitate research, and the committees are willing to work with researchers in order to resolve any issues that are identified in the application review.
If you are dissatisfied with the decision of the Ethics Committee regarding your application, you should first contact the Research Ethics Officer .
The Research Ethics Officer will attempt to resolve the problem by negotiation with you and the Ethics Committee. You may also be invited to attend an Ethics Committee meeting to discuss the issue directly. If the problem cannot be resolved through negotiation, a written appeal against the decision may be lodged. Please contact the Research Ethics Officer for more information.
If you have a complaint, you should first contact the Research Ethics Officer . The Research Ethics Officer will investigate the complaint together with the Ethics Committee Chairperson. All complaints are taken seriously and investigated thoroughly. You will be notified of the outcome of any investigations.
All approved research projects are approved subject to compliance with monitoring procedures. Monitoring is the process of verifying that the conduct of research conforms to the approved ethics application.
Institutions are responsible for ensuring that research is reliably monitored. Monitoring of approved projects is to establish that a research project is being, or has been, conducted in the manner approved by the Ethics Committee.
You will need to complete an annual progress report, and a final report on completion of your research project. You will be notified when a report is due.
In addition, researchers are also required to immediately report to the Ethics Committee anything that might warrant review of ethical approval of the research project, including:
- serious or unexpected adverse effects
- unforeseen events that might affect continued ethical acceptability of the project
The Ethics Committees also reserve the right to adopt any additional appropriate mechanism for monitoring of approved research projects.
Compliance with the approved research protocol is a condition of approval, and any changes to the research design must be reported to the Ethics Committee. The Ethics Committee understands that it is quite usual for research design to change, particularly for long-term projects. Some changes may be relatively minor, and others - such as the introduction of a new procedure or a new research question - may be major with the potential to impact on human participants or animals.
Amendments to the research design that may affect participants and/or that may have ethical implications must be reviewed and approved by the Ethics Committee before commencement. Any changes to documents and other material used in recruiting potential research participants, including advertisements, letters of invitation, information sheets and consent forms, should be approved by the Ethics Committee.
In order to request approval for a change, please send an email to the Research Ethics Office or the contact person in your Faculty outlining why the change is needed, describing the change (e.g. the new participants or new research procedures), and attach a copy of any amended documents.
All research projects are approved for a specified period of time – from the date of approval until the date of completion provided in the ethics application. Ethics approval covers both the collection and use/analysis of data, information and/or samples. Researchers should ensure that the period of time requested for ethics approval is sufficient.
If an extension of the approval period is required, a request must be submitted to the Ethics Committee. Please ensure that requests for extension of approval are submitted before the original approval expires.
In order to request an extension of ethics approval, please send an email to the Research Ethics Office or the contact person in your Faculty providing a brief reason why the extension is needed and giving the new expected date of completion.
Contact the Research Ethics Office for more information about the ethics approval process.
G&PS Ethics - Edith Cowan University