Step 1 - Prepare

Before you begin your application, take some time to determine which risk profile and review process will apply to your application and familiarise yourself with the supporting documentation you may be asked to provide.

The risk profile of research applications determines the review process each application will be allocated to, and the associated timeframes for submission and review.

Only higher risk research and Honours projects reviewed by the School Approval Process (SAP) in the Faculty of Health Sciences, have submission deadlines and specific meeting dates. All other applications will be reviewed out of session, and have no submission deadlines. 

Please see the risk profiles to determine which review process is suitable for your specific research project. 

Risk profiles and review processes

Based on the type of protocol you intend to implement, you will be asked to attach documents to support your application and to help the ACU HREC understand the protocol you are proposing. Every application requires:

  • Research Proposal
  • Peer Review
  • Participant Information Letter and Consent Form (PICF).

Depending on your project protocol you may also need to provide:

  • Peer Review evidence
  • Non-HREC Review Approval letter(s)
  • Other approvals/permissions from overseas research sites
  • Ethics approval from overseas research sites
  • Questionnaires/Interview/ Focus Group Questions - even if you intend to run semi-structured interviews/Focus Groups     
  • Investigator signatures
  • Approval from the Centre for Education and Innovation to survey or conduct an interview of Focus Group on ACU students. Learn more
  • Recruitment materials. Learn more
  • Research Data Management Plan
  • Debrief template 

For your convenience, the Orion form is set up so that you can upload all necessary supporting evidence – see section M in the Orion form (Attachments).

Explore all forms and templates

Have a question? We're here to help

Contact research ethics


Step 2 - Apply

To apply for ethics approval, you need to complete an ethics application form online through Orion.

To get started, log into Orion and select Ethics eForms, then the '+ New' icon as shown below:


Go to Orion

Most staff have automatic access, but students do not. If you can’t access Orion, then you will need to complete an Orion Access Request Form.

If you are having technical issues with the online form or Orion, please contact the research systems team:

Completing the application form

A ‘Create e-form’ screen will pop up with the following three options:

Use this form if you are an ACU staff member or student starting a new project at ACU that does not involve ethics approval from other institutions or organisations. This application will be reviewed by the ACU HREC.

Use this form when ACU is not the Primary HREC, and you wish to Register an HREC approved application form from another institution. Answer the preliminary question with ‘yes’ and click ‘continue’ and choose Registration at A.1.4:

Attach all documentation that was approved by the External HREC, including a copy of the approved application, together with relevant information such as your approval letter, participant information documents and any subsequent modifications or progress reports. We require evidence that the ACU personnel are named on the original (external) approval documents, including students. We will accept a modification with these changes. In most cases, ACU HREC will accept the approval of the Primary (External) HREC up until the original end date.

You may be asked to make changes, such as the participant information material, to meet ACU requirements. You will also need to report on your research to ACU HREC at least annually and at the conclusion of your research.

ACU HREC reserves the right not to accept an External HREC's approval, in which case we will ask you to submit a New ACU Project form for full review.

Research can be exempted from ethics review where there is negligible risk (no foreseeable risk of harm or discomfort and any foreseeable risk is no more than inconvenience). Generally exemptions are available for data that is in the public domain and is not identifiable and in some situations where data is in the public domain and it is identifiable eg: public webpages. Data that has the potential to identify participants does NOT qualify for an exemption from ethics review.

You are required to attach a short research proposal and a letter of permission from the owners of the data stating that they have authority to give permission to use the data, that you have permission to use the data for this research project and confirming that the data is non-identifiable.

Select the appropriate application form and work your way through, responding to each section and answering each question.


All mandatory questions have a red Asterix * and must be answered before submitting.

Some questions have a ‘?’ mark – click on this to open further information text.

If you have further information to add that sits outside the questions asked, or would like to add a comment, you can add a ‘General comment’ by clicking on ‘Comments' at the bottom of the page.

If you would like to download a copy of your application, you can do so at any time by clicking on the ‘Toolbar’ in the top right-hand corner and choosing 'Reports', then selecting 'Application' and clicking ‘OK’.

Before submitting the application
  • Ensure all mandatory questions are answered and required documents are uploaded
  • Complete the Checklist or the Supervisor Checklist

Apply now

To begin an application, log into Orion and click the '+New' button, then select your desired application form.

Go to Orion

Step 3 - Assessment

After your application has been submitted, you will receive an email acknowledging that your application was successfully lodged.

The Ethics Officers will check your application for accuracy and to ensure all the correct attachments are uploaded.

Your application will be assigned an ethics ID number and will be assessed and delegated to be reviewed based on the risk profile of your research project. 


You may receive an email asking you to amend your application (e.g., provide further details/evidence or reconsider aspects of the proposed protocol). The reviewers will continue asking for amendments until they are satisfied that there is enough information/evidence to complete the review of your application.

All comments from the HREC or ethics panels are located within the application form and are marked as ‘Action Comments’ or ‘General Comments’.

A red bubble indicates that you need to respond to one or more comments.

To reveal the comment, click the ‘Comments’ button and then the arrow.

Respond to each question within the application by clicking ‘Reply’.

Once you have completed your response, click ‘Post’ and the red flag/bubble will turn yellow to show it has been actioned.

Ensure that all bubbles have changed from red to yellow, as you cannot re-submit when the status of any comment is still red.

In addition to responding to comments, you must also amend your actual application in the relevant section, to include/clarify the information requested by the HREC/ ERP. The benefit of this change is to ensure the final approved application will reflect the changes requested by the HREC/ERP, AND it will assist your research team members (and NEW team members) to easily identify what has been approved as part of the ethics review process (noting that non approved activities would have been deleted from the application form and a record of changes is kept via the commenting system).

The whole application needs to reflect the changes, so that the final approved version is the most recent iteration.


  • All supporting documents should be uploaded with track changes (or highlighting) within Word so that reviewers can easily identify what has been changed. If track changes are not added, the documents will be returned and not reviewed.
  • You can upload new/revised attachments on Section M – Attachments. When editing documents ensure to use track changes and rename the documents to indicate the new version. Examples:
    • Protocol - V2 - 01 May 2023
    • Participant information letter and consent form - V2 - 01 May 2023
  • Use ZIP files if there is more than 1 document per item.
  • For HREC reviewed applications that have been reviewed at the HREC meeting, a Word document will be uploaded into ORION at section M.3. Respond to all queries and upload the response document at M.3 along with track-changed documents and re-submit.
  • Add all new documents before responding to the last comment at section M, as Orion will close off the ‘add’ button in the documents section once all comments are responded to and you won’t be able to upload any documents.

Once all comments have been responded to and all red flags/bubbles have changed to yellow, and new or altered documents have been uploaded, click on the ‘toolbar’ on the right-hand side of the page and click ‘submit application’.

Note, you can also click on ‘Reports’ to save a copy of the application or run a comment report.

What happens next?

Your responses will be reviewed by the ethics panel or HREC, and will either be returned with further comments, or forwarded to the Chair for final approval. This process may take up to 2 weeks.

Step 4 - Outcome

You will be notified of the outcome of the review or meeting via a system generated email from Orion. If approved, this email will include the ethics end date that applies to the protocol. An email approval is generally always accepted as proof of approval, however, if you require a formal approval certificate, please respond to the approval email, and we will send you a more formal document.

If you have concerns or complaints about any decisions of the HREC, please contact the Research Ethics Manager. However, every attempt should be made to resolve such complaints and to address concerns before making such a referral.


Page last updated on 05/04/2024

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