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Have a human research ethics question?

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  • Not sure where to start 
  • Do you have a progress or final report due soon?
  • Want to know how to create an application?
  • Unsure how to use the National Statement?
  • Need an amendment to your current ethics approval?


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For further information about Human Research Ethics check out the information, resources, and template documents on our website

The UniSQ Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC) find researchers commonly struggle with adequately addressing the questions within section “7 Benefit and Risk” of the Human Research Ethics (HRE) application. 

Generally, most research projects will have some element of risk that needs to be identified and addressed. Therefore, “no foreseeable risk” is not an appropriate response to address the questions in section 7 Benefit and Risk adequately. 

It is a requirement of the National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research, 2007 (updated 2018) that researchers are responsible for designing research to minimise the risks of harm or discomfort to participants. 

Please note research is ethically acceptable only when its potential benefits justify any risks involved in the research.

Outline the benefits

Question 7.1 requires you to outline the potential and real risks to participants. Benefits of research may include, for example, gains in knowledge, insight and understanding, improved social welfare and individual wellbeing, and gains in skill or expertise for individual researchers, teams or institutions.

Define the risks

Question 7.2 of the HRE application requires you to consider any real or potential risks participants may encounter if they participate in the research project. This includes identifying any risks that may be long term/ post participation in the research project.

Common risks identified by UniSQ researchers:

  • Physical, i.e. potential injury due to participating in exercise-based activities
  • Psychological, i.e. interviews seeking information on past traumas
  • Social, i.e. research with work colleagues
  • Time imposition, i.e. significant time required to participate in multiple research activities
  • Economic, i.e. direct or indirect costs to participants
    • Indirect – participants incur a fee to participate in the research
    • Direct – participant potential loss of employment due to participation in the research project
  • Legal, i.e. research that aims or is likely to uncover illegal activities
    • Note although researchers are required to keep research data confidential there may be situations where researchers are subpoenaed to release information 
    • It should also be noted that some researchers may be legally obligated to report incidences. For example, a researcher who is also a registered teacher must report any incidences of child abuse even if this is uncovered during a research activity.

Minimising the risks

As a part of identifying the risks, you will as need to consider how you are or planning to minimise/ negate the risks. You are likely to already have processes in place to minimise these risks.

At question 7.4 outline how you will manage each risk you have identified at question 7.2, ensuring section 7.2 and 7.4 align

Referal services

Depending on the risks and your participants, it may be appropriate for participants to be referred to support services. If participants are to be referred to support services, ensure the services are appropriate to the risks and the participants.

Risks to the research team

Consider if any risks are present for the research team. Think of this like a Workplace Health and Safety (WHS). For example, researchers conducting interviews in a participants home would involve potential risks to the researchers that will need to be considered and minimised.

Further information on benefits and risks can be found in Chapter 2.1 of the National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research, 2007 (updated 2018).

All research projects should have completed a Research Data Management Plan. Ensure your HRE application explicitly outlines at section 11 Data Access and Security describes how data will be managed during and after the research project.

Research Data must be stored in one primary location and two back-up locations. Refer to the University’s Research Data Management Procedure to ensure your proposed practice is suitable.

If you have any questions relating to data management planning, refer to the the Library's resources and contact the Research Support Team if you need assistance with your data management plan. 

A conflict of interest in the context of research exists where:

  • our interests or responsibilities have the potential to influence the carrying out your institutional role or professional obligations in research; or
  • an institution’s interests or responsibilities have the potential to influence the carrying out of its research obligations.

A conflict of interest can relate to financial interests or benefits that depend significantly on the research outcomes. 

A conflict of interest may compromise the research. Therefore, if your research project involves a conflict of interest (real or perceived), it must be indicated within your HRE application. 
Chapter 5.4 of the National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research, 2007 (updated 2018) provides further information on conflicts of interest.

Who needs to obtain approval?

Anyone (including Research Workers external to UniSQ) wishing to contact UniSQ students and/or staff research purposes (e.g. surveys, interview, focus groups) needs to obtain approval. 

Obtaining approval at UniSQ

Before conducting the research with or about human participants, contact the responsible officer at UniSQ to request permission to survey staff or students for research purposes.

The following details should be included in your request for permission:

  • project title
  • primary/ chief investigator name
  • primary/ chief investigator contact details (phone & email)
  • affiliation (name of the school, department, University, work area or external organisation)
  • short summary (plain English) of project
  • aim of the project
  • participants groups and the method of recruitment
  • the time period when the research activities are expected to take place (e.g. Semester two)
  • prize/ incentives (if applicable)
  • ethics approval details.

The UniSQ Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC) will review applications from a non-affiliated or independent researcher on the following conditions:

  • The research  is being conducted within Queensland.
  • It is not a clinical trial or intervention.
  • The researcher does not have access to a HREC within their organisation.