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Research Ethics refers to ethical conduct in research, as well as the protection of research participants. Ethics approval is required for all research involving people, personal data, and human tissue, as well as research involving animals. We  are committed to the highest standards of ethical research, through promotion of the values outlined in the National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research, including Research Merit and Integrity Justice, Beneficence and Respect. This page outlines ACU's research framework, and the research ethics support and resources available to our staff and students.

Ethical clearance must be sought and notification of approval received prior to commencing any research project involving human or animal participants. See the resources below:

You will need to obtain ethics approval from the ACU HREC where the research involves interactions with humans or their data. This applies to

  • funded and unfunded research;
  • research activities undertaken as a major requirement towards your degree.

You should not commence your research until you have obtained ethics clearance from the ACU HREC. If you have approval from another (external) ethics committee, then you will need to have that approval ratified by the ACU HREC.

Why do I need human research ethics approval?

Ethics approval is an important part of research integrity, both individually and institutionally. The process of ethics review helps to balance the interests of research participants, researchers and the University.

You will need to demonstrate that you have the necessary ethics approval in order to:

  • access your funding;
  • publish your results;
  • submit your thesis;
  • undertake a research project as a major part of your course requirements.
When is human research ethics approval not required?

You do not need to apply for ethics approval if:

  • You are conducting quality assurance (QA) activities, such as a satisfaction survey, and you do not intend to publish the results;
  • You are using research methods such as surveys or interviews on classmates as part of your class activity or assessment. Refer to Taught Unit Guidelines and some Frequently Asked Questions which include a short video.

Note that the HREC cannot grant retrospective approval.

The ACU HREC normally meets 11 times a year on the second Thursday of each month from February to December.  

HREC Meeting Dates and Submission Deadlines 2023 (PDF, 18KB)

To be recognised for engaging with applicants in a collaborative and respectful way, while ensuring that research activities at ACU are aligned with the principles and values of the National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research and the Mission of the University.

The National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research gives the main and minimum standards by which research involving humans is conducted.

Learn more and download the latest edition

The Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research provides a guide to institutions and researchers on responsible research practices.

Learn more and download

The ACU Research Code of Conduct is a policy adopted by the University on the appropriate practices for the conduct of research. It is intended to be read in the light of other ACU Policies and Procedures.

Read the ACU Research Code of Conduct


Research involving and engaging with First Nation Australians will be referred to the Indigenous Research Ethics Advisory Panel (IREAP) for additional review and advice. This includes “all research that impacts or is of particular significance to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, including the planning, collection, analysis and dissemination of information or knowledge, in any format or medium, which is about or may affect Indigenous peoples, either collectively or individually”.

Before submitting your application to the HREC you must have read the IREAP guidelines and attached the supporting information using the IREAP Appendix B template (below).

To allow sufficient time for IREAP review, your application will be due 4 weeks before the HREC meeting date – refer to the HREC Meeting dates section on the Ethics and Integrity home page.

IREAP Membership

Convenor: Assoc Prof Shino Konishi
Executive Support: Research Ethics and Integrity Manager

About the IREAP artwork

IREAP commissioned Cassandra Gibbs and Danielle Dent to create an artwork expressing the work and aims of the ACU IREAP. Background on the artwork can be found in the following attachment: IREAP ARTWORK – Certification

Complaints relating to the conduct of research 

Complaints relating to the conduct of research by ACU students or staff will initially be investigated by the HREC Chair and the Research Ethics and Integrity Manager, in line with University policies relating to responsible conduct of research.

In the event of such a complaint being received, the researcher shall immediately be informed and a sub-committee established to investigate the complaint. If appropriate, the sub-committee will recommend that the relevant protocol(s) be suspended until the complaint has been resolved.

Complaints relating to the decisions of the HREC

Complaints about any decisions of the HREC that cannot be resolved by the Chair and Research Ethics and Integrity Manager will be referred to the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) for further consideration. However, every attempt should be made to resolve such complaints and to address concerns before making such a referral.

What to do if you have a complaint or concern relating to research conducted by ACU staff or students

If you have any complaints or concerns relating to research conducted by a researcher from ACU, you should if possible resolve your concerns directly with the researcher in the first instance.  If for any reason you do not feel comfortable in talking with the researcher, or if you are not satisfied with their response, please contact the Research Ethics and Integrity Manager immediately.  The Research Ethics and Integrity Manager can be contacted either by email ( or by telephone (02 9739 2519).

Accidents, Incidents or Adverse Events

It is a requirement of ethics approval that researchers inform the Ethics Committee of any accidents, incidents or adverse events that arise during the course of research as soon as possible.

Such an incident might include an injury or accident resulting from the research, either to a person (who could be a participant, a member of the research team or a member of the public), a complaint, or involve some other harm such as inadvertent release of personal data.

Please refer to the Adverse Events Guide and Form (Docx 178KB) for more information.

The National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research (NHMRC 2007), requires each institution to be satisfied that human research receiving ethical approval meets relevant scholarly or scientific standards. An important aspect of this assurance is evidence of peer review of the merit of a research protocol. Peer review is seen as a key indicator of quality assurance in research and is an essential process to ensure that relevant and scientifically sound research is undertaken. Peer review should also be seen as a useful opportunity to improve the quality of a project.

The ACU HREC has provided Guidelines and a checklist to assist with peer review prior to ethics review.

If peer review has already occurred as part of an award from a recognised granting body operating a competitive grants scheme then researchers should provide this information within the ethics application form (and completion of the checklist will not normally be required).  Researchers are required to confirm within the ethics application that the proposal submitted for funding is the same as that submitted for ethics review, otherwise additional peer review may be required.

Guidelines for Applicants to the HREC

Ethics applications are made through the online Orion system.

There are three different online application forms:

  1. New ACU Project
  2. Non-Identifiable Data
  3. Registration of External Approval (All forms can be accessed from the Ethics menu in Orion and selecting, Applications)

Normally applicants should choose Create New Application then select the New ACU Project form unless:

  • Your research is limited to the use of previously collected Non-Identifiable data. Login to Orion and follow the path: Ethics/Applications/Create New Application/Non-Identifiable data.
  • Your research has already been approved by an accredited HREC and you wish to either transfer the protocol to ACU jurisdiction or register the external approval with ACU. Login to Orion and follow the path: Ethics/Applications/Create New Application/Registration of external approval.

For subsequent reports, amendments and extensions please download the appropriate form from the links below and email the complete form (including attachments) to

Progress/Final Report/Request for Extension

The National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research requires researchers to provide regular reports to the HREC. You will be sent reminders at regular intervals to complete and return the required report(s), using the template below:

Download Research Project Progress/Final Report/Request for Extension template (PDF, 263 KB)

Download Research Project Progress/Final Report/Request for Extension template (DOCX, 56 KB)

Changes to Protocol

You should not alter your protocol without prior approval from the HREC. If you wish to alter your protocol, please download and complete the template below:

Download Modification Form for Research Project template (PDF, 416 KB)

Download Modification Form for Research Project template (DOCX, 59 KB)

Note: Forms emailed by the Principal Investigator/Supervisor do not require a signature.

Incident and Adverse Event Report Form

ACU Adverse Event Incident Report Form (DOCX, 206 KB)

Research Ethics Risk Assessment Management Plan (RAMP) Template

The HREC's assessment of ethical acceptability of risks is based on the researcher identifying any possible risks, the likelihood and severity of the risks, who the risks may affect and how the identified risks may be minimised. Where there is a higher than low risk or a number of risks that may require management, this template provides a structure which enables researchers and HREC members to easily identify the risk and their proposed management. Completion and submission of this form is considered essential when completing a clinical trial ethics application form.

Researchers should refer to the ACU Risk Management Policy and Procedures for guidance when completing this form and in the management of any risks at ACU.

Download Risk Assessment and Management Plan June 2022 (Word, 36KB)

HREC resources/guidelines

Other non-HREC resources

Privacy and GDPR guidance

Working with Children Checks

Evidence of current Working with Children/Vulnerable People Checks (WWC/V Checks) in the relevant State(s)/Territories should be provided for all researchers who will have direct contact with children in the course of their research. For ACU staff, the appropriate WWC/V Check will be a paid worker/employee check (not a volunteer or student WWC/V Check). Any researcher(s) without the appropriate current WWC/V Check(s) should be removed from the project until the WWC/V Check(s) is provided to the Ethics Secretariat. The researchers may be added to the project via a Modification Application at a later time when they can provide the evidence of the WWC/V Check(s). All WWC/V Checks will be validated with the relevant Government Agency. In New South Wales a date of birth must be provided to facilitate the validation process. More information on WWC/V Checks and links to Government Agency websites are available from the ACU staff website.

At this stage, WWC/V Checks should be attached to every relevant ethics application.

If you require help or advice in how to interpret the application form questions or guidelines, please contact or phone (02) 9739 2646 (extension 2646). If you require further assistance regarding managing your data please contact

ACU Research Data Management Toolkit for assistance in completing the Data Management component of your application.

If your query relates to technical issues with the online form or Orion, please contact or phone (03) 9953 3674 (extension 3674).

Other help and resources

Page last updated on 03/04/2023

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