Human Research Ethics
Ethics approval is required for graduate students who plan to conduct research activities involving humans. Access to Themis Human Ethics Workbench will be disabled on Monday 5th October and replaced with a new innovative Infonetica Ethics Review Manager (ERM) system. On 6 October, you will commence creating new human research ethics applications in Infonetica ERM.
Human Research Ethics and COVID-19
This advice is for researchers who hold current approvals from a University of Melbourne Ethics Committee (HEAG/HESC/AEC or IBC) to undertake research with humans, animals or biologicals. In line with government directives on social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic, research activity that involves researchers being physically present for data collection with humans/animals (such as face-to-face field work, experimental and cohort studies, clinical trials etc) cannot continue for now and will need to be deferred and rescheduled. In exceptional circumstances, where such activities are part of priority research, including that directly related to the University’s COVID-19 response, approval to continue this work may be given by the relevant Dean and endorsed by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research.
Desk-based elements of previously approved research can continue, as can data collection that is or can be conducted online or via telephone, subject to necessary approvals or amendments to ethics applications.
Researchers will be advised by the University when other elements of planned and approved data collection can resume. Please consult the University’s COVID-19 website for research guidance, FAQ and updates.
When human research ethics clearance may not be required
Some projects considered to be of negligible risk may not require human ethics review. For example, the use of information available freely in the public domain does not require human ethics approval.
University of Melbourne academic staff and students must obtain ethics approval before commencing research projects involving human participants. If you are unsure if your project requires ethics approval, please contact HumanEthics-Enquiries@unimelb.edu.au for advice.
What are the different types of human ethics clearance applications?
All ethics applications should be made with reference to the National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research (2007) - Updated 2018.
- Low or Negligible Risk (LNR) applications are the most common human ethics application type within the Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning. LNR projects are those that present low risk to participants and researchers. The ultimate decision as to whether an application is eligible for minimal risk review lies with the ethics committee. These applications were formerly called Minimal Risk applications.
- Greater than Low Risk (GTLR) applications are used for projects that present more than low risk as defined by the National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research. These applications were formerly called Standard Project applications.
- Melbourne School of Design Minor Thesis students should submit a Program (Student coursework) application.
- Registration of approved application is used when a researcher attached to a project has previously received approval from another institution's human research ethics committee, the project will need to be registered with the University of Melbourne and provide annual reports regarding the conduct of the project.
- Transfer application will transfer ethics approval obtained from a human research ethics committee at another institution. The University of Melbourne will then become responsible for the research. For example, this is applicable if a researcher has moved from another university and will be continuing existing research projects.
Why is annual reporting required?
The Human Research Ethics Committee requires that researchers submit an annual report on the anniversary of approval. The University is required to follow up on any annual reports which are out of the ordinary. Failure to submit an annual report will mean that ethics approval will lapse.
Research projects involving human participants cannot be commenced by University of Melbourne students or academic staff without obtaining prior ethics clearance.
More information about Human Ethics, the application and assessment process and FAQs can be found on the Human Ethics page.
For technical system support, please submit a Service Now webform (staff only) or contact the Research Helpline +61 3 8344 0999.
Graduate Researchers and Ethics Applications
The ABP HEAG normally expects that graduate researchers submit ethics applications after confirmation. However, for pilot studies and in other circumstances it may be appropriate to submit an ethics application prior to confirmation. Please discuss this with your supervisor/s.
- Your supervisor is the Responsible Researcher, co-supervisors can be added as Co-Researchers if appropriate, and the graduate researcher is the Student Researcher.
- Use the current templates for the Plain Language Statement (PLS) and Consent Form.
- Remember to insert the Ethics application ID and other information in the footer of each document
- Check for repetition
- Format the documents to one page (Consent) or two pages (PLS) where possible
- Is the PLS language actually plain? Ask a friend or family member who is not in your field to read it, check your audience can understand what your aim and what you are asking of them.
- Don’t downplay the risks, acknowledge them and outline how they will be mitigated.
- Ensure the application is internally consistent. For example, don’t say there are no risks and then outline how risks will be minimised.
- Be realistic about how long interviews might take.
- When you upload documents, upload either word documents or saved PDFs. Please don't upload scanned PDFs as they are hard for the reviewers to read.
- Limit your use of acronyms.
- Think carefully about issues such as consent and anonymity.
- Consider using verbal consent where vulnerable participants must not be identified to ensure their names are not recorded.
- In some circumstances it may be appropriate for participants to be identified, such as recording historical contributions to a particular field.
MSD Minor Thesis Applications
Research projects involving human participants must have prior ethics approval before data can be collected.
New Minor Thesis Applications
Minor Thesis students should contact their subject co-ordinator for advice regarding Minor Thesis ethics applications.
Existing Project within Program applications approved via Themis
Existing active Project within Program (PwPs) and attached documents have been migrated to Infonetica ERM. The applications can be accessed by the Responsible Researcher.
The Human Research Ethics Committee requires that by the end of the year you must submit a report on the research. A link to the report will be emailed to the Responsible Researcher (the supervisor) on the anniversary of approval.