Commencing a human research activity without ethics approval is a serious issue and may constitute research misconduct.
Retrospective ethics approvals cannot be provided, as this would contravene the requirements of the National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research.
You must have ethics approval before you start your research.
Most research activities involving human participants will require a human research ethics review and approval prior to their commencement.
The only exceptions to this requirement relate to:
However, if you intend to publish the outcomes of a quality assurance or audit evaluation and/or present your findings in a public or professional forum, then you will require formal ethics approval and; therefore, you must submit a human research ethics application.
Based on the level of risk involved in human research, the human research ethics review system at UWA includes an exempt status and a 3-tier ethics review hierarchy:
All applications for ethics approval must be forwarded to the Head of School (or recognised equivalent) for signature and authorisation to submit to the Human Ethics office. The Human Ethics office then reviews the risk assessment checklist submitted by the applicant to determine the risk level for the research proposal and allocates the ethics application to the most appropriate ethics review pathway.
Many human research ethics applications are low risk (Level 2) or negligible risk (Level 1) projects that do not need to be reviewed by the university's NHMRC-registered Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC), which meets on a monthly basis.
Initial processing of ethics applications is undertaken by the Human Ethics office on a continuous basis to allocate proposals to a Level 1, Level 2 or Level 3 approval pathway. Similarly, the RERCs review applications on a continuous basis dependent on other workloads within the Faculties and Schools.
Therefore, when your human research ethics application documents are complete, submit them immediately to the Human Ethics office for processing: if your application is assessed as Level 1 or Level 2, it will not need to be reviewed by the HREC at one of its monthly meetings.
Only higher risk (Level 3) applications that must be reviewed by the HREC will enter that committee’s monthly meeting cycle.
The Human Ethics office endeavours to process all ethics applications within the minimum timeframe possible. However, in general terms, processing time is longer for more complex applications requiring submission to the Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC) that meets on a monthly basis.
Processing time may also be increased where applications are incomplete or do not meet the required standard for ethics review. Therefore, all researchers have a key role to play in reducing processing time for ethics applications to a minimum.
From the time an ethics application is received by the Human Ethics office, the objective is to process all applications and issue a formal ethics approval letter according to the following schedule:
|Level 1 – negligible risk applications||1 week|
|Level 2 – low risk applications||2-3 weeks (depending on RERC turnaround)|
|Level 3 – higher risk applications
||4-6 weeks (depending on HREC turnaround)|