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Research Ethics

 

The University of Sydney Research Code of Conduct 2013 sets out the University’s expectations in terms of responsible research practice and research integrity.

HDR students are expected to take responsibility for ensuring that they have the necessary ethics approval for any research projects they are involved in.

Ethics approval is necessary for a range of research activities at the University. If you are doing a research degree, a research component of a coursework degree, or if you are planning to engage in any other activity where you plan to work with either people or animals, it is essential you make inquiries to check whether you need ethics approval before you start your research. If you plan to conduct research for a pre-existing project, you should be sure your name is added to any pre-existing approvals. Do not assume that this has been done.

If you are unsure whether your project requires ethics approval, or you are unsure if your name has been added to an existing research proposal, you should first talk with your supervisor. Ask for confirmation with the Research Integrity Team: research.integrity@sydney.edu.au. There are also Research and Integrity Advisors within many faculties who may be able to provide you with advice. A list of current research integrity advisors can be found here.

IMPORTANT – If you do not seek ethics approval before starting research, you run the risk of being prohibited from using any material and results obtained during that research and having engaged in academic misconduct.

Note – ethics approval and clinical trial approval are separate. For more information about how to apply for clinical trial approval, go to:

https://intranet.sydney.edu.au/research-support/managing-research/running-a-clinical-trial.html

 

Who approves my project?

The University has both Human Research Ethics Committees (HREC) and Animal Research Ethics Committees (AREC). These are often divided into subcommittees, for instance HREC 1, HREC 2. This is purely administrative. The ethics committees approve research proposals. You can find out more about the committees here:

HREC:

https://sydney.edu.au/research/our-research/ethics-and-integrity/human-research-ethics-committee.html

AREC:

https://sydney.edu.au/research/our-research/ethics-and-integrity/animal-ethics-committee.html

It can be difficult to know what institution to approach for ethics approval. Sometimes a project will only need ethics approval from the University. In other instances, i.e. where a project is being run through a separate institution, you may need ethics clearance both from the University and the institution where you are doing your research.

If an institution has certification, it may be able to grant approval in its own right without you having to also have the University consider your project. If you are unsure, you should make inquiries about what institution is authorized to grant your project ethics approval. Do not assume that you are covered.

 

Special note for students undertaking external human research

For HDR students conducting research using human participants outside the University of Sydney, it is highly likely that you will require external ethics approval for your research.

If you are doing a human research project through an external institution that has been certified with the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), then you will not require additional consent from the University. For more information, including a list of institutions with NHMRC certification:

https://intranet.sydney.edu.au/research-support/ethics-integrity/human-ethics/approvals.html

All external institutions with ethics oversight have their own processes for seeking ethics approval. Students should make inquiries directly to these institutions if they are unclear about the administrative requirements.

The University policy guiding external human ethics approval procedures is the External Human Ethics Approval Procedures 2013:

http://sydney.edu.au/policies/showdoc.aspx?recnum=PDOC2013/327&RendNum=0

 

Gaining ethics approval through the University

All applications for ethics approvals via the University must be lodged through the Integrated Research Management Application (IRMA). Paper and email applications are not accepted. If you do not already have access to IRMA, you can request access online if you have a Unikey.

The Committees meet at set times, which are diarised throughout the calendar year, along with the date to provide submissions prior to each meeting. Responses to submissions are usually provided within 10 working days after meetings.

  • Process of gaining ethics approval via the HREC:

https://intranet.sydney.edu.au/research-support/ethics-integrity/human-ethics.html#apply

There is also a video on how to lodge the application via IRMA, located on the same page and online training modules via your eCommunities page on the Learning Management System (the LMS).

  • Process of gaining ethics approval via the AERC:

https://intranet.sydney.edu.au/research-support/ethics-integrity/animal-ethics.html

 

Give yourself sufficient time

Ethics applications require significant paperwork and can take time to prepare. There are resources available to assist you to prepare a solid application:

https://intranet.sydney.edu.au/research-support/managing-research/facilities-and-tools.html.

The AERC recommends students should expect to wait at least two months from the point of applying to gaining approval. It is not unusual for students to have to adjust and resubmit proposals, sometimes numerous times, and this can significantly throw out a student’s research plan.

Note: Keep in mind that if you experience a substantial delay in obtaining ethics approval, this may be grounds to seek an extension of time of your PhD or Research Masters. Refer to the section Request Extension of Candidature for more information on this process.

 

What can I do if my ethics approval is rejected?

In all instances where approval is not granted, you will be given an opportunity to discuss the methodological, ethical or administrative issues that led to the committee’s decision.

You will be invited to make amendments, or where there are serious issues, submit a new application. If you have been invited to make amendments or to lodge a new application, you should allow for further time for the committee to meet and review.

If you do not agree with the finding of the research committee, you can lodge an appeal. At the University of Sydney, the appeal processes for the two committees vary.

Appealing a decision of the HREC:

https://intranet.sydney.edu.au/research-support/ethics-integrity/human-ethics/approvals.html

Your first point of contact should be the Human Ethics Manager: human.ethics@sydney.edu.au

Appealing a decision of the AREC:

https://intranet.sydney.edu.au/research-support/ethics-integrity/animal-ethics.html.

Your first point of contact should be the Animal Ethics Manager: animal.ethics@sydney.edu.au

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