Academic research that involves people in any way is called “Human Research”. That includes working with people, human tissue, or even information about people in any of the following ways:
- Surveys, interviews, and focus groups;
- Medical, physiological or psychological testing, including clinical trials;
- Using people’s personal material, including documents;
- Use of human organs, tissue or fluids;
- Using information about people obtained from a database, including linkage data-sets or private practice patient files;
- or, even just observing people for a research purpose.
People in any of those categories are called ‘participants’ in research.
Research at the University must be reviewed and approved by an ethics committee before you interact with participants. This review is usually done by a formally constituted Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC) which meets once a month.
In most cases participants' consent must be obtained before you conduct your research and participants are at liberty to participate, or not, without coercion. In rare circumstances, consent can be waived by making special application to the HREC. Research institutes in Australia, including Universities, follow and ethics code called the National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research.