All research and teaching conducted in Australian institutions must be conducted in accordance with the National Health and Medical Research Council's (NHMRC) National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Research Involving Humans and the legislation introduced to protect the welfare of animals, by ensuring that their use in research and teaching is always humane, considerate, responsible and justified.
Ethics approval is thus needed if a project involves one of the following:
- Research involving human participants
- Vertebrate animal experimentation
- Preparation or use of recombinant nucleic acids constructed in vitro from sources which do not ordinarily recombine genetic information
- The use of ionizing radiation.
Only human research is further considered here. There are some circumstances where ethics approval is not required in exercise and sport research. One example is where free to air footage is used in descriptional research such as is common in performance analysis.
From Wikiversity:Research ethics: The ethical guidelines for scientific research in the developed world are well established by governmental agencies, professional societies, universities, and journal publishers.
Research ethics try to answer what actions are good, and what actions are bad. The key issues for research published on Wikiversity [and a good general guide for most ethics] are:
- Verifiability - Research projects must fully document the methods, original motivations, and hypotheses. Research in progress must be clearly labeled as such.
- Honesty - Research results are always honestly reported and without omissions, even if the results are undesirable, don't fit predetermined beliefs, or proposed hypotheses. Don't lead participants into drawing specific conclusions.
- Transparency - Research reports must clearly explain everything done in the course of the research in a open and transparent manner so that other participants can draw their own independent conclusions.
- Objectivity - Strive to conduct and report research in a way that allows experts to independently test, verify and confirm the validity of the research.
- Subjectivity - You are free to express your views and opinions, but they should be clearly identified as such.
- Disclosures - Any biases or potential conflicts of interest must be declared at the start of research projects. This fosters trust, and helps the community to understand your point of view.
- Sources - When sources of previous knowledge, data or other information is relied on cite your sources. This allows examination of those works too. Be clear to distinguish previous knowledge from new knowledge.
- Safety - Research must be conducted in a safe and lawful manner. Do no harm.
- Review process - The peer-review process contributes to quality control and is an essential step to ascertain the standing and originality of a research project.
Often its useful to think of your proposed research and ethics with these things in mind:
- Potential harm to participants
- Physical (e.g. injury, infection)
- Psychological (e.g. deception procedures, confidentiality of results, participant understanding, any coercion or power relationships)
- Commitments (e.g. time requirements, unnecessary procedures, justification of research question, justification of participant numbers - power analysis, procedures in place to ensure research can go ahead if costs increase)
- Potential harm to researcher
- As above plus integrity of researcher/institution may come up with controversial research
- At each point you should address how risk is being minimalised (e.g. pre-screening questionairre, laboratory protocols, qualifications/experience of researchers, participants being able to cease participation at any point without consequence)
- As well as how the participants benefit (e.g. maybe they get healthier, have access to information about themselves they wouldn't get otherwise, benefit from knowledge about performance improvement)
Research involving humans/human participants requires an approval from a Human Research Ethics Committees, obtained before starting any research, as approval is not granted retrospectively. All human ethics applications at the University of Canberra requires the completion of either the National Ethics Application Form (NEAF) or the University of Canberra Ethics Application Form. The NEAF form is standardised across Australia. Once an individual has registered on the NEAF site (which requires approval from recognised home institutions) the following generic process generally applies (but individuals should check with their home institution).
- NEAF form is completed in it's entirity and attachments included (attachments often include the participant information form and the consent form, University of Canberra guidelines on how to complete these forms are here). Students will require their supervisor to approve their addition to the form
- NEAF form is printed and submitted to the local human research ethics committee with approval from appropriate managerial structures.
- The UC specific form will need similar completion, and co-researcher, supervisor approval.
Whichever the pathway:
- Submission may require cover sheets and duplicate copies of forms and committees often meet several times per year with deadline dates for ethics submissions to each meeting. Make sure you check the submission and meeting dates.
- The local human research ethics committee approves or otherwise the submission for a set period of time. Generally submissions require adjustment and the committee will request changes to the submission before it is accepted. Approval may then be granted by the full committee again or by just the head of the committee.
- Ethics approval can take a long time unfortunately. Make sure you are thorough, and get on to it early!
- Consider whether you need ethics approval or whether it is already granted. If not, register for NEAF if you haven't already and then work through the NEAF form. You will also need to complete a consent form and an information sheet for participants. Remember that everything needs to be in layman terms. Check it all with your supervisor(s).
University of Canberra guidelines on how to apply for ethics are here
National Health and Medical Research Council
National Ethics Application Form (NEAF)
Hopkin's has general advice about scientific writing and specific advice about grants, proposals, and ethics applications in Writing Pre Data (slideshow).
See also Steve and Amanda Olivier's articles on ethics forms and comprehension in consent forms.
Things to consider when writing an ethics proposal