faculty ethics committee

Faculty Human Ethics

The Faculty Human Ethics Committee (FHEC) is responsible for the initial review of ethical issues raised by coursework research projects, increasing staff and student awareness of ethical issues common to the disciplines within the faculty, and the requirements of the NHMRC Statement on Ethical conduct in Research Involving Humans.

Applications

Mrs Wendy Jennings
Executive Assistant to the
Pro Vice-Chancellor EHSE
Blue 5.1.62b
T: 08 8946 6550
E: ehseoffice@cdu.edu.au

Meeting Dates

Faculty Human Ethics Committee (FHEC) meeting dates (PDF 37KB)

FHEC Membership

  • Dr Jim Lee - School of Psychological and Clinical Sciences (Chair)
  • Dr Mary Morris - School of Psychological and Clinical Sciences
  • Dr Mal Flack - School of Psychological and Clinical Sciences
  • Prof Marilynne Kirshbaum - School of Health
  • Mirjam Jonkman - School of Engineering and Information Technology 
  • Dr Anne Lowell - Research Centre for Health and Wellbeing
  • Ms Gretchen Ennis - School of Health

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Background

At its meeting on 02 August 1994, the Northern Territory University Human Ethics Committee (now known as Charles Darwin University Human Research Ethics Committee, CDU HREC) resolved to establish ethics sub-committees in those faculties within the University that wish to be involved in the processing of ethics applications.

The sub-committee's principal responsibility is:

  • the consideration of applications for ethics clearance for student research projects involving human subjects undertaken as part of coursework programmes.

The University has an ethical and legal responsibility to safeguard the rights of human participants; it discharges this through the advice provided by its ethics committees.

Research involving human subjects has the potential to be harmful when undertaken by students who are relatively inexperienced and ethical review is essential to protect the participants, the students, and the University.

Processes

All research involving human subjects must be appraised by an institutional Ethics Committee appropriately constituted so as to include a lawyer, a minister of religion, a lay person, and a medical graduate with experience in research. Ultimate responsibility for ethical clearance rests with the CDU HREC however undergraduate and postgraduate coursework master level applications involving  human research are devolved to faculty level.

The human ethics process is as follows:

  1. The Faculty sub-committee will provisionally recommend applications for CDU HREC ratification.
  2. CDU HREC will formally endorse the faculty recommendations if satisfied of the ethical acceptability of the research proposals (see diagram below).
  3. The CDU HREC reserves the right to call for a protocol should it be in doubt about the ethical issues of a particular project.

Digital submissions to the FEC should consist of one document only.  Multiple documents will be returned to the applicant for amalgamation into a single submission.

Each meeting the committee will only view the first 6 applications received at the Faculty Office by COB of the required submission date (pdf).

Terms of reference

  1. To promote awareness amongst the staff members and enrolled students in the Faculty of the need for ethical clearance for research projects undertaken as part of undergraduate, honours year, master's preliminary, graduate diploma and coursework masters research.
  2. To receive applications for ethics clearance for research projects undertaken by students as part of the undergraduate, honours year, master's preliminary, graduate diploma and coursework masters research, and to:
    • Assess the adequacy of the project summary of the project as stated on the Application Form
    • Approve the suitability of the research topic in relation to the experience of the student researcher
    • Assess the ethical issues arising from the proposed research and its methodology
  3. To report to the CDU HREC on projects considered by the FEC and to advise upon the ethical acceptability of the research protocols.
  4. To consider applications from staff members for ethics clearance for research components in units or courses.
  5. To encourage the development of a collaborative approach between the FEC, the supervisor and the student when applying for ethical clearance, based on the understanding that an appreciation of ethical principles is essential to the acquisition of good research techniques.
  6. To promote on-going consideration of relevant professional practice codes and debate on ethical dilemmas relevant to the disciples within the Faculty.
  7. The FHEC meet on a regular basis at times appropriate for the needs of the Faculty's teaching programs.

Guidelines for obtaining ethics clearance

Applications

Students should apply for ethics approval for a research project by completing an EHSE117 - Honours and Coursework Masters Projects Application for Faculty Ethics Approval form (DOCX 1MB).  
You must:

  • have read and understood, "why you are required to submit an ethics approval application" as outlined on page 5 of the application form
  • have discussed this application with your supervisor
  • have answered each and every question, as required
  • have attached, where appropriate, a plain language statement, consent form, any letters of support from institutions, community groups etc, interview guide and questionnaire (see below)
  • have read, understood and signed the applicant declaration
  • have your supervisor and head of school both sign your application.

Submit

  • Submit two (2) signed copies or the application (- one hard copy and one electronic copy of your application).

Please note: 

  • Applications which have not been endorsed by your Supervisor and Head of School will not be considered and will be returned immediately to you.
  • Digital submissions to the FEC should consist of one document only.  Multiple documents will be returned to the applicant for amalgamation into a single submission.
  • Each meeting the committee will only view the first 6 applications received at the Faculty Office by COB of the required submission date (PDF 91KB).

Summary of Project

The applicant is required to provide a summary of the research activity project.  This summary is important as it will be used to inform the FEC of the nature of the research, the ethical issues arising from the research and the research methods involved.  The FEC is responsible for verifying the adequacy of the summary.

Documentation accompanying the application form

a. Plain Language Statement

This is the explanatory information given to potential participants and should include the following:

  • Name of student or class and supervisor;
  • Title of the project (short title if appropriate)
  • Aims of the project
  • Procedures involved
  • Time commitment expected of participants
  • Description of reasonably foreseeable risks or discomfort
  • Provision made to preserve the confidentiality of records
  • A statement that the subject is free to withdraw at any time and without adverse consequences
  • Whether and or where the participants will be informed of the results of the study and any provision for debriefing participants, including those who withdraw
  • Contact details.

Please note: 

  • Address potential participants: The Plain Language Statement should be addressed to the potential participants rather than the FEC and should be written in a language which a lay person would understand, ie: technical and educational terms should be kept to a minimum unless all participants are likely to be familiar with them. 
  • Short summary: What is required is a short summary, in simple language, of the essential points which a reasonable person would wish to know before agreeing to participate in the project.
  • Separate Sheet: The Statement should normally be presented on a separate sheet, not part of the signed consent, so that it may be retained by the participant. 
  • Printing options: It is permissible however to print the statement and consent on one sheet with directions that the consent  section be detached and returned when signed. 
  • Letter: Alternatively, the plain language statement may take the form of a letter addressed to the participant. 

b. Consent Form

Voluntary and informed consent should always be obtained from participants in writing, except where consent to participate takes the form of anonymous return of a questionnaire or survey.
Consent should be obtained on an appropriate form.
More sensitive cases:
In more sensitive cases, [for example, where a subject has impaired vision or intellectual disability, or where the level of risk to participants is beyond that encountered in every day life], a witness may be required to provide independent confirmation that consent was voluntary and that the subject received an adequate explanation and fully understood what was involved in the project.  A witness must be independent of the project.

Please note:

  • Where a witness is required, sample consent forms 1 and 2 should be amended by inclusion of an appropriately worded witness certification. 
  • It should be noted that a witness can only sign a certification within the level of his/her involvement, eg: Witness to signature only; or Witness certifying that the participant:
  • Received adequate information about the project
  • Had an opportunity to ask questions
  • Appeared to understand what was involved
  • Consented voluntarily.
  • The form should also record the witness' signature, printed name, occupation and relationship to the participant, if any.

Contact details and research purpose:

The researcher's name and a short statement of the purpose of the research should be given in the spaces provided on the Consent Form.  The statement of the purpose of the research is not a Plain Language Statement.  A succinct statement on the "purpose of the research" is the only information required here.

Ethics clearance for academic staff conducting research involving humans

  • For all academic staff research involving humans, clearance is required from the University Human Ethics Committee.

  • For more information about the processes involving University Human Ethics clearances, please visit the page opposite.