Researchers, including students, who wish to undertake research involving human subjects, must obtain approval from the relevant committee before commencing the study.
Do I need human ethics approval?
You must obtain final ethics approval from the appropriate committee before commencing any “research conducted with or about people, or their data or tissue”.
Who approves human ethics applications?
Depending on the nature of the proposed research involving humans, you will require approval from either the Social and Behavioural Research Ethics Committee (SBREC) or the Southern Adelaide Clinical Human Research Ethics Committee (SAC HREC). Both Committees operate in accordance with the National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research 2007 (Updated 2018). Alternatively, Flinders University also accepts approvals from other human research ethics committees, as described for Previous approval from another Human Research Ethics Committee (Non-Clinical Research Only).
If you are unsure which Committee should approve your research, please contact the SBREC Executive Officer for advice before completing an application.
Social and Behavioural Research Ethics Committee (SBREC) - Non-Clinical Research
Comprising researchers, expert professionals and community representatives, the Social and Behavioural Research Ethics Committee (SBREC) is responsible for reviewing all applications relating to non-clinical research with a social and/or behavioural focus conducted by Flinders University staff, students and affiliates.
This includes research involving:
- human participants;
- surveys, interviews or focus groups;
- observations and/or photography of human participants, or of sacred / significant sites or objects;
- audio and/or video recording of human participants;
- human remains (e.g., for archaeological or anthropological research)
- sacred and/or significant sites;
- Indigenous peoples (involvement or impact);
- administration of food or dietary supplements for non-therapeutic reasons
- secondary analysis of existing data sets (identifiable and non-identifiable) (non-clinical).
Further information about the scope and nature of this committee can be found here - SBREC Terms of Reference (PDF 128KB)
Southern Adelaide Clinical Human Research Ethics Committee (SAC HREC) – Clinical Research
The Southern Adelaide Clinical Human Research Ethics Committee (SAC HREC) is responsible for reviewing applications relating to clinical research involving human participants conducted by Flinders University staff, students and affiliates, or by staff of the Southern Adelaide Local Health Network (SALHN). This includes research noted in the following list.
SAC HREC must also review applications for any research that involves recruitment of participants from the SALHN (e.g., medical staff or patients), including for research that would normally fall within the responsibility of the Social and Behavioural Research Ethics Committee. This includes recruitment from organisations and societies that are known to have, or are likely to have, SALHN staff as members.
- physically invasive procedures;
- diagnostic testing;
- use of drugs and/or devices that may have a therapeutic effect;
- administration of drugs, whether or not they are approved for use in Australia;
- administration of food supplements intended for therapeutic use;
- administration of ionising radiation to human volunteers;
- human tissue (including blood, saliva, bodily fluids, and also fingerprints);
- genetic testing;
- testing a clinical health intervention;
- diet and exercise studies;
- scans (including MRI, CT, x-ray and ultrasound);
- complementary medicines;
- secondary analysis of existing data sets (identifiable and non-identifiable) (clinical).
Further information about the scope and nature of this committee can be found here.
The role of Research Ethics Advisors (REAs)
Research Ethics Advisors (REAs) will provide advice and guidance to researchers in preparing applications and in particular on the following:
- Human research ethics and the National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research;
- SBREC policies and guidelines;
- The SBREC application process, including low/negligible risk review;
- REAs will not work though SBREC applications in detail, but can provide targeted advice regarding specific questions in the application form;
- How to determine the risk level of a research project;
- The SBREC modification request process;
- Reports: Annual Progress and Final;
- Handling complaints;
- While supervisors must take primary responsibility for training, advising and supporting their own PhD, Masters and Honours students in the appropriate handling of human research ethics and SBREC applications, REAs can also be consulted by students together with their supervisors.
Research Ethics Advisors (REAs)
|College||Research Ethics Advisors|
|Business, Government and Law||Dr Cassandra Star
Dr Beverley Clarke
Dr Rhain Buth
|Education, Psychology and Social Work||Associate Professor Lorna Hallahan
Dr Mariette Berndsen
|Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences||Dr Alison Wotherspoon|
|Medicine and Public Health||Associate Professor David Hunter
Who can also provide advice regarding applications to the Southern Adelaide Clinical Human Research Ethics Committee
|Nursing and Health Sciences||Ms Jan Thompson
Dr Lana Zannettino
|Science and Engineering||Associate Professor Lorna Hallahan|
|Other||Associate Professor Lorna Hallahan
who also acts as the REA for any University researchers not associated with Colleges (e.g., from the Centre for Innovation in Learning and Teaching, Student Learning Centre, etc).
Research involving children and/or vulnerable adults
In addition to requiring ethics approval from the relevant committee (e.g., SBREC or SACHREC), researchers who intend to conduct research involving children or vulnerable adults* must undergo a Criminal History / Screening Check. This should be obtained in parallel with ethics approval (and can take many weeks to obtain). A copy of the clearance document must be provided to the relevant ethics committee in order to receive final ethics approval.
Screening checks for the University are conducted via the State Government's Department for Communities and Social Inclusion (DCSI) Screening Unit.
Staff members should follow the advice for staff on this webpage.
Students should enquire within their College or discipline regarding procedures that may already be established for this purpose. If there are no such procedures in place, please contact your Head of College Services.
*Definition of a Vulnerable Adult
The term "vulnerable adult" (or "an adult at risk") encompasses those adults who:
- are unable to safeguard their own well-being, property, rights or other interests;
- may be (or are likely to be) harmed by the conduct of another person;
- are engaging (or are likely to engage) in conduct which causes (or is likely to cause) them harm;
- are unable to take care of themselves;
- are unable to protect themselves against significant harm or exploitation;
- are, or may be, in need of community services by reason of mental or other disability, age or illness.
Research involving or impacting Indigenous peoples
If your research involves or impacts on Indigenous peoples, a copy of your Social and Behavioural Research Ethics Committee (SBREC) application will be sent by the SBREC Executive Officer to the Flinders University Office of Indigenous Strategy and Engagement (OISE) for any comments and recommendations they wish to provide in relation to your proposed research project. Advice received from the OISE will be incorporated into the Committee's response.
Please note that you should not send your application directly to the OISE.
Health-Related Research involving Aboriginal people or communities
Proposals to conduct health-related research involving Aboriginal people or communities in South Australia must be submitted to the Aboriginal Health Research Ethics Committee (AHREC). If you have approval from AHREC, you do not need approval from SBREC. However, you will need to provide documentation as described for Previous approval from another Human Research Ethics Committee (Non-Clinical Research Only).
However, if you should submit your application to the Southern Adelaide Clinical Human Research Ethics Committee (SAC HREC) instead of SBREC, and this application relates to health-related research involving Aboriginal people or communities in South Australia, you will need to apply to both AHREC and SAC HREC. In this case, it may be advisable to seek guidance from SAC HREC administrators regarding the timing of your applications.
Further information on the scope and nature of AHREC, and the application submission process, can be found on the Aboriginal Health Council of South Australia website, and enquiries about the submission process can be directed to Gokhan Ayturk, Senior Research and Ethics Officer (AHCSA).
- Ethical conduct in research with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and communities: Guidelines for researchers and stakeholders
- Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) Guidelines for Ethical Research in Australian Indigenous Studies
- Keeping Research on Track: A guide for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples about health research ethics
- Flinders University's Appropriate Terminology, Indigenous Australian Peoples, developed as part of the Cultural Diversity and Inclusive Practice Project.
Research involving the veteran community
Researchers who intend to conduct research involving the veteran community must obtain ethics approval from the Australian Government - The Departments of Defence and Veterans’ Affairs Human Research Ethics Committee (DDVA HREC) prior to commencing their studies.
Once you have received ethics approval from the DVA HREC, you should follow the instructions provided for researchers with previous approval from another Human Research Ethics Committee here.
Complaints received about
- the conduct of an approved research project, or
- the Committee's review process,
will be brought to the attention of the Chair of the Committee who will investigate the complaint and its validity and make a recommendation to the Committee on the appropriate course of action. If the complaint is considered to have serious, or potentially serious, consequences, or to be against the University, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) will also be notified.