Research Ethics and Integrity

Western Sydney University is committed to the highest standards of integrity in conducting research. Research integrity and ethical research are not simply matters of compliance. The research enterprise is a deeply social activity and is embedded in trust – trust among researchers and the emerging researchers they supervise; trust between researchers and those who support their endeavour by participating in research, and trust between researchers and the community which values their creation of new knowledge and hopes that there will be benefits for all arising from the research effort.

Research by University researchers and students must be carried out in accordance with the Research Code of Practice and the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research (2018)

Academic Senate has endorsed the Singapore Statement on Research Integrity and the Montreal Statement on Research Integrity in Cross-Boundary Research Collaborations

The University provides resources, advice and assistance to researchers navigating the structured aspects of governance and compliance that are necessarily also part of conducting ethical research.

Determining if your activity requires Human Ethics review

The first question to ask is – is the activity ‘research’? The National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research, 2007 (updated 2018) page 6 says:

“What is research? There is no generally agreed definition of research; however, it is widely understood to include at least investigation undertaken to gain knowledge and understanding or to train researchers.”

Page 7 then says:

“What is human research? Human research is conducted with or about people, or their data or tissue. Human participation in research is therefore to be understood broadly, to include the involvement of human beings through:

  • taking part in surveys, interviews or focus groups;
  • undergoing psychological, physiological or medical testing or treatment;
  • being observed by researchers;
  • researchers having access to their personal documents or other materials;
  • the collection and use of their body organs, tissues or fluids (eg skin, blood, urine, saliva, hair, bones, tumour and other biopsy specimens) or their exhaled breath;
  • access to their information (in individually identifiable, re-identifiable or non-identifiable form) as part of an existing published or unpublished source or database.”

At Western Sydney, research that involves human participants requires ethics review through either the HREC or low risk review pathway, unless the researcher can claim that the research is exempt from review

Determining if your activity requires Animal Ethics review

The Australian Code for the Care and Use of Animals for Scientific Purposes (8th Edition, 2013) provides the following definitions:

Animal: any live non-human vertebrate (that is, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals encompassing domestic animals, purpose-bred animals, livestock, wildlife) and cephalopods.

Scientific purposes: all activities conducted with the aim of acquiring, developing or demonstrating knowledge or techniques in all areas of science, including teaching, field trials, environmental studies, research (including the creation and breeding of a new animal line where the impact on animal wellbeing is unknown or uncertain), diagnosis, product testing and the production of biological products.

Teaching activity: any action or group of actions undertaken with the aim of achieving a scientific purpose, where the scientific purpose is imparting or demonstrating knowledge or techniques to achieve an educational outcome in science, as specified in the relevant curriculum or competency requirements.

If you are conducting work involving the use of animals for either scientific purposes or a teaching activity you will require approval from the Animal Care and Ethics Committee (ACEC).

In specific circumstances, where no direct animal interaction is involved (handling, trapping, spotlighting or environmental enrichment, etc.), a Field Observation Study Application may be submitted to REDI for approval.

Determining if your activity requires review by the Biosafety and Radiation Safety Committee

Broadly speaking, the Biosafety and Radiation Safety Committee (BRSC) reviews activities involving microorganisms (Risk Group 2 and above, AS/NZS 2243.3), genetically modified organisms, biological toxins, Security Sensitive Biological Agents (SSBA), ionising radiation sources, radioactive materials and equipment, and lasers above class 2.

For further information, consult the BRSC Terms of Reference