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The National Statement requires that the recruitment of participants is fair and not exploitative; that there is a balance between benefit and risks of harm or discomfort for participants; and that the participants welfare, dignity, wellbeing and right to privacy are respected.
This page outlines some approaches to the recruitment of particular groups of research participants.
Students as potential research participants
Academic staff should note that access to student records for teaching purposes does not grant access for research purposes. Requests to use student data which forms part of the student's academic record should first be directed to the Chief Student Experience Officer. The project will require an ethics application.
Some Schools also require potential research projects with their students to be cleared by the School before an ethics application is made. Researchers should check with their own School.
Using SFU and SFT survey data
Western Sydney SFU and SFT surveys advise students that if they submit the survey they are consenting to the data being used for research purposes, therefore, further ethical review is not required if this is the only human data being collected for the research.
Recruiting medical students as participants
Before recruiting or sampling students from the School of Medicine the study must be reviewed by the School Evaluation Committee. Please see the School of Medicine Research and Evaluation Requests Involving Medical Students Policy (PDF, 439.21 KB) (opens in a new window) and Application Template (DOCX, 18.36 KB) (opens in a new window) for further information.
Accessing student records
Student records are protected under privacy legislation. See Privacy Principles and Research (opens in a new window) for further information.
All use of student results or any other information that forms part of a student's record requires a full ethics protocol and approval from the University's Chief Student Experience Officer (opens in a new window) to access and use the data. Researchers must seek in-principle approval from the Chief Student Experience Officer prior to applying for ethical review.
If de-identified student data will be accessed the records must be de-identified by someone other than the researcher prior to release to the researcher, therefore, there are human resource implications for the Office of the Chief Student Experience Officer in conducting this process.
When in-principle approval is in place, please commence the normal human ethics application process.
If it is intended to access identifiable student data or records the consent of the student should be obtained as part of the participant consent process (ie after ethics approval) as well as providing the in-principle consent of the Chief Student Experience Officer with the ethics application.
Staff as potential research participants
Researchers who are not staff, students or affiliated with Western Sydney University, are able to access publicly available staff details. For example, going to the University's webpage will allow any member of the public to source information listed for staff on various pages. External researchers, however, should also conform to the Research Conducted by External Parties Approval Policy (opens in a new window)
The University's website also has a Staff Directory. The conditions of use of the Staff Directory conditions are the following: 'Obtaining information from this Directory must be for the legitimate purposes of doing business with and within the Western Sydney University and must not be used for unsolicited bulk emailing (spamming) or similar purposes.'
Recruitment of potential research participants is, therefore, excluded from permitted usage. To recruit Western staff for a research project, Western researchers can publish a short message via E-update and/or Yammer to reach potential participants.
For a more targeted approach, i.e. staff from a specific field of expertise, it is suggested that researchers contact the relevant School or Institute Manager to discuss options for recruiting participants.
Western Sydney University broadcast emails – Western All – may not be used for participant recruitment.
For any questions related to staff communication, please contact the Internal Communications team at email@example.com
Access to existing data or bio-specimens
If wanting to access existing data or bio-specimens researchers need to provide a clear explanation in the ethics application of the following:
- where the data is being accessed from (what agency currently holds it?)
- what data is being accessed (what is the criteria or database field names for the data to be accessed)
- whether consent to access the data has been previously provided by the participants (what evidence is there of that consent) or
- how consent will now be sought, or
- why consent won't be sought and why that is allowable under privacy legislation.
Conducting research in the Australian School system
When conducting research in the school system in Australia, research projects need both ethics approval and approval to access the students and staff in the school system.
National Application Form
To conduct research in schools in more than one jurisdiction (sector, state or territory) in Australia.
There is an online form (opens in a new window) for researchers who need approval from more than one educational research jurisdiction to conduct research in Australia.
Further information is available in the Guidance Document on the State Education Research Applications Process (PDF, 588.33 KB) (opens in a new window).
For schools operating under the jurisdiction of the NSW Department of Education and Communities (DEC)
The approval process is commonly known as SERAP – State Education Research Approvals Process.
In order to have your research project approved by DEC you are required to:
- Obtain an ethics approval from the Human Research Ethics Committee
- Complete the online DEC application form through SERAP Online (opens in a new window)
- Provide the Human Ethics Officer with a hard copy of the DEC application documents for University endorsement and indemnification
- The endorsed application will then be returned to the researcher who will submit the application to DEC
- DEC will provide successful applicants with an approval letter to conduct research in NSW Government Schools.
In 2019 the NSW Department of Education advised that you only need SERAP approval when you are recruiting in NSW government schools and/or observing/interacting with NSW government school students. If you are not approaching NSW government schools to recruit, for example, you are recruiting school staff through other organisations, SERAP isn’t required.
For SERAP enquiries email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 02 9244 5060.
Sydney Catholic Schools
You must obtain an application package (opens in a new window) from the Catholic Education Office. Please note that each diocese in NSW may have its own processes.
NSW TAFE SystemThere is a separate process for conducting research in the NSW TAFE system. See Conducting Research In TAFE NSW – Application Process (opens in a new window)
Approval must be discussed with the relevant school principal/s. When submitting an application to HREC please provide an in-principle agreement from the relevant school authority.
Waiver of consent
The preferred consent approach is voluntary, informed and active, i.e. participants have the project explained to them, they do not feel coerced into agreeing to take part, and they overtly state their agreement to be involved.
Requests for a waiver of consent to access a participants' data has both privacy legislation and ethics review considerations.
The National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research (opens in a new window) (chapters 2.2 and 2.3) provides explicit advice to researchers and ethics committees about the circumstances under which an HREC may approve a waiver of consent, primarily drawing on the legislation exemption relating to use in research. As such, access to data that wouldn't otherwise be available to researchers may be granted by an HREC for research purposes after consideration of privacy legislation requirements.
Opt out approach
Section 2.3.5 of the National Statement addresses the requirements for use of the opt out approach. See also Guidance on the Use of 'Opt Out' or Passive Consent in Human Research (PDF, 44.46 KB) (opens in a new window) to assist you in considering whether your project may be suitable for an opt out approach, and if so, what is required. The opt out approach is preferable to waiver whenever possible.
Research conducted by external parties
Researchers external to Western Sydney University who want to conduct research involving Western Sydney staff or students, should refer to the Research Conducted by External Parties Approval Policy (opens in a new window)