What research requires ethical review?

Human research is research conducted with or about people or on their data or tissue. Human research is directed at understanding and improving health and wellbeing and its treatment across the population. Quality Assurance and Continuous Quality Improvement activities, while generally considered as low risk, may also constitute research and so be bound by the requirements of the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research.

In accordance with the National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research (2007), human research that involves the following methodologies generally requires ethics approval by a properly constituted Human Research Ethics Committee.

  • Conducting surveys, interviews or focus groups.
  • Performing psychological, physiological or medical testing or treatment.
  • Observational studies.
  • Accessing personal documents or other materials of research participants.
  • The collection and use of body organs, tissues or fluids (for example skin, blood, urine, saliva, hair, bones, tumour and other biopsy specimens) or their exhaled breath.
  • Accessing personal information (in individually identifiable, re-identifiable or non-identifiable form) as part of an existing published or unpublished source or database.

The National Statement also provides further guidance regarding specific ethical considerations relevant to different categories of research.

If you are unsure of whether your project requires ethical review please contact the relevant Executive Officer associated with the Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC) at the institution where you plan to undertake your research.

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