ACAP Research Ethics
The Australian College of Applied Psychology believes that all research should be conducted with honesty and integrity, and follow responsible and ethical research practices. All ACAP students, staff and research partners engaged in research with ACAP are expected to adhere to the standards of ethical conduct prescribed in the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research (2018), as well as the National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research (2007), each developed jointly by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), the Australian Research Council (ARC) and Universities Australia.
Additionally, researchers at ACAP engaged in research involving indigenous concerns or participants must adhere to the Ethical conduct in research with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and communities (2018) and the Keeping research on track II (2018), developed by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and the Guidelines for Ethical Research in Indigenous Studies (2012), developed by the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies.
Research Involving Human Participants
All research undertaken by ACAP students and staff that involves human participants requires ethics approval from the Navitas Professional Institute Human Research Ethics Committee (NPI HREC) before the research is commenced. Through this ethics approval process research is assessed for quality, safety, privacy, risk management, financial management and ethical acceptability in accord with the National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research.
This process of ethical review and approval reassures researchers that their research project complies with the Code and Standards and related statutory requirements, and has moral validation as well as institutional backing. It also provides researchers with an opportunity to enhance the rigour and quality of their project. Researchers of ACAP HREC approved human research projects are also required to submit an annual progress report to the ACAP HREC.
Navitas Professional Institute Human Research and Ethics Committee
|Chair / Research Expert
Dr Fiona Ann Papps
|Deputy Chair/ Research Expert
Dr John Whitehead
Ms Ann Gibson
Mr Warwick McDonald
Ms Belinda Jones
Important HREC Documents
- HREA Cover Sheet
- Project Description Template
- Services Sheet
- Human Research Annual Progress Report Template
- HREC Revision Form
- Record Retention Obligations of Research Students & Staff (Guidelines)
- HREC Approved Research Projects Complaints and Appeals Process
- Permissions from sites (Memo, August 2015)
- Code of Practice for Research Supervisors and Research Students
- HREC Mandatory Reporting Statement
- HREC Amendment Form
- HREC Terms of Reference
Helpful Information for Students and Supervisors
- Conducting Research Overseas
- Ethics Check List
- HREA Online Form
- HREC Data Storage Process
- HREC Recruitment of Participants
- Informed Consent
- NPI HREC Advice on Reimbursements
- Risk of Social Harm
- Macquarie University ethics training
Research ethics templates for survey research (quantitative)
Research ethics templates for interview research (qualitative)
HREC Training Videos
- Introduction to the research ethics training
- Module 1: Introducing research ethics
- Module 2: Practical issues in research ethics
- Module 3: Preparing your research ethics application
- Revising your HREA online
NPI HREC Meeting Dates in 2021
Document deadline: Friday 15 January 2021
Meeting date: Monday 25 January 2021
Document deadline: Friday 19 February 2021
Meeting date: Monday 1 March 2021
Document deadline: Friday 19 March 2021
Meeting date: Monday 29 March 2021
Document deadline: Friday 16 April 2021
Meeting date: Monday 26 April 2021
Document deadline: Friday 14 May 2021
Meeting date: Monday 24 May 2021
Document deadline: Friday 28 May 2021
Meeting date: Monday 07 June 2021
Document deadline: Friday 18 June 2021
Meeting date: Monday 28 June 2021
Document deadline: Friday 16 July 2021
Meeting date: Monday 26 July 2021
Document deadline: Friday 20 August 2021
Meeting date: Monday 30 August 2021
Document deadline: Friday 17 September 2021
Meeting date: Monday 27 September 2021
Document deadline: Friday 15 October 2021
Meeting date: Monday 25 October 2021
Document deadline: Friday 19 November 2021
Meeting date: Monday 29 November 2021
Document deadline: Friday 03 December 2021
Meeting date: Monday 13 December 2021
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Do I need to apply for ethics approval?
All research involving human participants conducted by staff and students of Navitas Professional Institute (ACAP, NCPS) must undergo ethical review by the HREC prior to commencement of the research.
2. What do I need to submit with my ethics application?
On submitting your ethics application the following documents are required:
- A completed Human Research Ethics Application (HREA);
- A participant information sheet for each participant group (if applicable);
- A consent form form for each participant group (if applicable, noting that research projects which involve online or anonymous paper based surveys do not require a consent form, but rather a statement at the beginning of the survey advising participants that clicking ‘submit’ on the survey implies consent).
- Copies of any questionnaires, interview schedules, research advertisements, or any other documents relevant to the research.
3. How do I submit my ethics application?
Student ethics applications can be submitted to the HREC Secretary either yourself, through the research supervisor or through the relevant staff member in your School.
Staff conducting research can submit ethics applications directly to the HREC Secretary.
4. How strict are submission closing dates for the HREC?
Due to the volume of applications received, and the short time frame for HREC members to review applications, HREC document submission deadlines cannot be overridden. Applications received after the document deadline will be held over to the next HREC meeting.
5. Will my application be approved straight away?
Currently, approximately 15% of applications are approved as submitted. There are a number of factors which can prevent your ethics application from being approved on initial review. One of the most common factors being inexperience by the researcher in submitting ethics applications. Students submitting an ethics application must have the application reviewed by their supervisor prior to submission to the HREC. Supervisors will have experience in completing HREA and an understanding of what is required by the HREC.
Please see the Helpful hints for completing the HREA information to assist you in addressing common issues.
6. What happens following the review of my application by the HREC?
Once your application has been reviewed the minutes of the meeting are compiled for approval by the HREC Chair. The feedback from the meeting is then sent in a Notice of Outcome via email to the applicant and supervisor.
7. I’ve received my Notice of Outcome and I need to address a few issues. How do I respond to the Committee’s feedback?
The Notice of Outcome will list the changes that need to be made or the additional information that is required. Where the Committee says 'for noting', this is not something that must be changed but should be acknowledged by the applicant.
If revisions are required, changes should be done on the HREA. It is not necessary for you to log back in to the HREA site to amend your electronic application, you can make the necessary amendments in the word documents that you would have downloaded when you submitted your original application. The revised HREA, any revised attachments and a summary of the changes made should be returned to the HREC Secretary with an explanatory letter addressing each point raised by the Committee. Please note that if the explanatory letter is not received with the revised HREA your resubmitted application will not be reviewed.
8. What happens once I have submitted my revised application?
On return of the revised HREA the application will then follow one of two courses of action as indicated on the ethics notice. These consist of the following:
- Full review by HREC;
- Review by Chair.
You will be notified of the outcome of your revised application within 7 business days of receipt by the HREC Secretary.
9. What if I disagree with the decision of the HREC?
It is uncommon for an application to be rejected by the HREC. If the applicant disagrees with the feedback of the HREC the applicant will need to submit information in an email to the HREC Secretary addressing why the applicant disagrees with the feedback. This will be assessed by the HREC Chair for review and determination.
10. I need to make changes to my approved research or I need more time to complete it.
To request approval for changes to approved research or an extension of time, an email outlining the request/changes needs to be sent to the HREC Secretary. If there are any ethical implications that arise due to the change, this will need to be addressed in the email, and updated information sheets and consent forms submitted if necessary.
11. Do I need to submit a progress report?
Yes. In accordance with Section 5.5.5 of the National Statement on Ethical Conduct on Human Research (2007), progress reports on approved research must be submitted at least annually.
The ethics approval notice will advise the date that you need to submit your progress report. Progress reports are to be emailed to the HREC Secretary and should be completed using the progress report template.
Helpful hints for completing the HREA
1. The application must list the student researcher as Associate researcher and NPI ACAP supervisor as Principal Investigator/ researcher (PI) and the HREC will return applications submitted without allocated supervisors and appropriate signatures. The Principal Investigator/ Researcher is the main contact for participants. Student’s private email and phone numbers are not to be given out or used for contact. You must also complete the HREA cover sheet and submit it with your HREA.
2. Guidance on word limits for questions: where free text boxes are provided in the HREA, please keep answers succinct and limit responses to 250 words where possible.
3. Project description and attachments (consent forms, participant information statements etc) must be uploaded and submitted with the HREA.
4. In the HREC's experience with ACAP applicants all projects to date carry some risk. Please ensure that this is addressed in Q2.3.1 and Q2.3.2 and attach list of referral services to application.
5. Permission to use other sites must be attached to application.
6. Resubmitting applications: if you are required to resubmit your application to the Chair or Committee, it is not necessary for you to log back in to the HREA site to amend your electronic application. You can make the necessary amendments in the word documents that you would have downloaded when you submitted your original application, then send these through to firstname.lastname@example.org.
7. Ensure that once you are ready to submit your application, that any 'draft' watermarks are removed from the document.
Advice for Applicants
NPI HREC Advice on Reimbursements
In deciding whether an incentive will be offered to facilitate recruitment and participation in a research project the following ethical considerations need to be taken into account:
- Is the incentive reasonable and proportionate in relation to the aims and conduct of the research?
- Does the incentive offered place an appropriate value on the time and input of participation?
- Could the research stand on its own merits without an incentive being offered?
- Is the purpose of the incentive fully explained to all participants?
- Have all the risks been fully assessed and disclosed to participants so that any incentive is not coercive to participation?
- Has every protection been given to participant privacy and confidentiality?
Summary of National Statement Principles
Under the National Statement, the preferred model of consent to participate in a research project is that the consent is voluntary, informed and active.
Offering reimbursements, incentives or the possibility to win a prize as the result of participating in research has the potential to impact on the voluntary nature of consent and to coerce participation. The National Statement does not explicitly address the matter of gifts or prize draws for participants, rather it concerns itself with the concepts of inducement and coercion and respect for participants.
Section 2.2.10 of the National Statement (2007) discusses payments to participants:
“It is generally appropriate to reimburse the costs to participants of taking part in research, including costs such as travel, accommodation and parking. Sometimes participants may also be paid for time involved. However, payment that is disproportionate to the time involved, or any other inducement that is likely to encourage participants to take risks, is ethically unacceptable.”
In other words, the question is whether or not payments induce participants to undertake risks they would not be willing to accept without the incentive.
The ACAP HREC judges requests to provide research participants with forms of reimbursement / incentive on a case by case basis in the context of the:
- overall project,
- usual practice in research, and
- usual practice in the particular segment / sector the participants are to be drawn from.
In considering such requests the HREC is guided by the National Statement which says:
“An HREC should be satisfied that:
(a) payment in money or incentives of any kind, whether to researchers or participants, does not result in pressure on individuals to consent to participate (see paragraphs 2.2.10, and 2.2.11)” (NS 3.3.18)
Research projects that intend to seek approval for reimbursements/ incentives need to provide cogent arguments for the approach to be taken, show consideration for the potential coercive effect of the payment, and provide the committee with enough contextual information for it to make a decision.
It should be noted that there are certain groups of participants, and certain risk levels in projects, that make offering payment for participation more problematic.
Reimbursements for costs
Participation in research can sometimes involve participants incurring costs (e.g. travel, accommodation and/or parking costs). It is acceptable that reimbursement for, or a contribution to, those costs be made available to participants.
Reimbursements for time
Where participation in research will involve a significant burden of time on participants, the researcher(s) might consider reimbursing participants for that time.
The question of whether or not this should be considered an inducement, rather than a reimbursement, rests upon whether or not the researcher can accurately determine the “cost” of the time involved by participants in the research.
Researchers who wish to provide reimbursements for time should outline in the ethics application the justification for this type of reimbursement and how the ‘cost’ was arrived at.
Paying a request for reimbursement
The researcher will need to determine whether a set reimbursement is to be offered or if the participants will be required to provide proof of having incurred costs. The preferred method at ACAP is a set reimbursement as this is considered the least complicated and easiest method to convey to participants. If researchers decide not to follow the set reimbursement approach the reason for the decision should be explained in the ethics application and the process for ensuring participants can reclaim their costs needs to be outlined in the application.
The chosen approach also needs to be clear in the participant information sheet and if participants need to prove a claim amount they need to be told what evidence will be required e.g. parking tickets, and what process will be followed.
Researchers should discuss the requirements and procedures for payments to research participants with their School / Institute manager.
The potentially most ethically problematic form of payment to research participants is an incentive to encourage them to participate. Unlike a reimbursement, there is no direct link between the payment and cost to participants. Instead, the purpose of the payment is to encourage participation.
Determining whether an incentive is coercive
A payment/incentive could be considered coercive if, having considered the risks and burdens associated with a research project, a person decided not to participate, but when they heard about the incentive they concluded they should participate.
In situations where an incentive can be offered, the assessment of whether an incentive is coercive will depend upon the following factors:
1. The circumstances of the potential participant pool. For example – a payment of $40 to a homeless youth might be considered coercive, while the same amount offered to a medical practitioner would probably not.
2. The risks and / or burdens associated with the research. Where there are very few risks or burdens associated with participation in a research project, the ability of an inducement to be coercive is less of an ethical concern. E.g. offering a payment of $40 to a homeless youth to take an anonymous questionnaire about their favourite music might be a very significant inducement, but the absence of any meaningful risk to the participants means that the inducement cannot really be characterised as coercive.
3. The relationship between the inducement and the ‘market’. Increasingly market research and other fields utilise inducements to encourage participation in their data collection. An important consideration in determining whether an inducement should be considered coercive is whether the proposed inducement is comparable to what participants might be offered from other reputable sources. E.g. a sporting venue might offer the chance to win a ticket to the next game to encourage members of the crowd to complete a survey, so it would be appropriate for researchers in the same context to offer the same kind of inducement.
Examples of approved payments made at ACAP
- $30 shopping vouchers
- Chance to win one of three $40 gift cards
- Chance to win 1 of 25 gift cards valued at $20
- $100 payment for a project that seeks to involve General Medical Practitioners (GPs), based on the justification that GPs are unlikely to participate in research unless offered a re-imbursement at that level.
Guidelines when offering incentives
The University’s interpretation and implementation of Section 2.2.10 of the National Statement (2007) is:
- It is not appropriate to offer incentives in research projects that are risk rated as high risk.
- It may not be appropriate to offer incentives for some projects which are risk rated as low, particularly when the risk rating is based on participant vulnerability.
- In the case of an incentive in the form of shopping vouchers, the researchers should consider the potential for vulnerable participants to use the voucher in ways that may reinforce that vulnerability and where appropriate outline risk management strategies to avoid that possibility.
Incentives and anonymous research
Ensuring the anonymity of individual recipients may provide an important protection against significant risk and / or may be likely to increase the participation rates if individuals know that the researcher(s) cannot identify them.
At the same time the researcher(s) may have decided to offer some form of incentive, whether a direct incentive or a ‘prize draw’.
How then to maintain the anonymity of responses, whilst at the same time having a mechanism to send the individual the incentive / enter them into the draw?
The most typical response to this situation is to separate the data collection and the incentive mechanism.
1. with hard copy surveys:
- a tear away page for the incentive mechanism (where the participant lists their name and contact details) and this being immediately separated from the survey once it is received.
- a separate envelope in the return where the participant separates their completed survey from their incentive entry.
- a completely separate return mechanisms for the survey and incentive entry.
2. with online data collection:
- by recording the data from the completed instrument and the incentive entry in completely separate tables without any relational link between the two tables.
It is important that the informed consent materials explain the approach to these matters so potential participants understand the degree to which the incentive entry mechanism compromises or has no effect on the anonymity of their response. If left unexplained some individuals may elect not to participate or may even complain about the project.
If running a lottery or lucky draw the researchers need to ensure that their approach is consistent with the lottery laws. If a raffle is held in Sydney, then the participant is meeting NSW laws (and the HREC would need to see that you have obtained the relevant authorisation), if a raffle is organised overseas then the researcher is required to meet the laws of that country.
The details and conditions of the draw process (e.g. the estimated chance of winning a prize) should be included in the consent process, generally as an attachment to the informed consent package. Sometimes the mechanism for entry to the prize draw will need to be explained (e.g. if the data collection is otherwise anonymous).
Prize draws must be administered and conducted by someone independent of the participant pool and ideally also the research team.
SONA credit points
Student course credits are acceptable for courses where the School /Institute has determined that research experience as a participant is beneficial and to be encouraged. However, alternatives to participation should also be available e.g. educational activities or assignments, and this should be acknowledged in the Participant Information Statement (PIS). At ACAP course credits are awarded even if the participant withdraws from the research.
Recruitment material and reimbursements or incentives
The language used to describe the payment can impact on the ethical implications of the payment e.g. gesture / token; compensation / reimbursement.
When a reimbursement or incentive is being offered, recruitment material should not have the potential to coerce an individual to participate. Therefore, researchers need to reflect on how the payment will be described in recruitment material so that it cannot be seen as an inducement to participate.
The design of the recruitment material should not focus on the payment for participation.
Participants withdrawing from the research
Researchers should outline the approach to payment in the case of participant withdrawal in both the application form and the participant information sheet.
The ethics principle is that, for those participants who have consented to be included, withdrawal of consent for both their actual participation and the use of data they provide can be communicated to the researcher and their wishes will be adhered to. A request for withdrawal of participation and/or data from that participation may happen at the collection stage and/or later at the analysis or storage stages.
Researchers need to consider how a withdrawal of consent may impact on the study and whether this will impact on the reimbursement or payment that was outlined in the information sheet.
For the most part, it is expected that participants will receive the stated reimbursement or incentive, or at least part of it.
Involving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders
When researching with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participants, families, and groups and within global Indigenous Communities, researchers should practice ‘Customary Gift Giving’. Customary Gift Giving is to present your research participants with a small meaningful gift and a thank you card. This gift does not have to be costly, it is just a respectful gesture and token of the researcher’s appreciation and gratitude to the participants, research advisors such as Elders, Leaders and Gatekeepers, those that guided the research.
"Customary gift giving is an integral part of cultural interchange within many global Indigenous communities. … giving a customary gift to the participants involved in the research is often viewed by Indigenous researchers as a pivotal part of Indigenous research methodology and methods...It is our way of showing our respect and sincere appreciation for the time given and valuable knowledge shared by the research participants” (Morseu-Diop 2017:122).
"Gift givng...is not restricted to formal events; it is so essential to proper cultural protocol that it was woven into the day-to-day work of the research project. It involved things such as arriving at the district offices to collect data with gifts of food, offering presentations for staff, sending notes of appreciation, and finding ways to acknowledge research assistants, advisory committee members, and other stakeholders. It is important to note that gifts need not be expensive; however, they must be meaningful and presented with a good spirit. Throughout the project, I have tried to fully experience the relationships formed with each person, organization and community; this provides me with the inspiration to meaningfully choose a gift that symbolizes that special and unique relationship” (Blackstock 2009:125).
Using third party recruitment agencies
Researchers sometimes buy access to participants and/or data from 3rd party market research companies. In the ethics application the researcher needs to provide:
- a rationale for this approach to sourcing participants
- evidence that any payments made to participants via this 3rd party are in line with ACAP HREC reimbursement guidelines
- evidence that the 3rd party has clear ethical policies and processes in place in relation to the collection and management of participants’ data.
Acknowledgement: This material is an adaptation of Griffith University’s research ethics arrangements.