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Human Research Ethics Committee

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Human Research Ethics Committee

The Human Research Ethics Committee is a Vice Chancellor's Advisory Committee that is responsible to the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research).

The Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC) is a formally constituted committee of the University and is registered with the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) of Australia.

This committee operates in accordance with the UWA Principles for the Operation of Committee and UWA Rules for the operation of committees. Members must act in accordance with the University Committee Members' Code of Conduct.

Members must also act in accordance with the Senate Code which applies to Senate and Senate committees. In accordance with the Code members must among other things:

  • act always in the best interest of the University as a whole, with this obligation to be observed in priority to any perceived duty a member may owe to those electing or appointing him or her
  • maintain confidentiality and, except with the approval of the Chair or if required by State or Commonwealth legislation, not divulge information at any time to any person external to the committee.

Constitution

Position of the committee within The University of Western Australia

1. The Human Research Ethics Committee is a Vice-Chancellor's Advisory Committee that is responsible to the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research).

(Under delegated authority from the Vice Chancellor, the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research) is responsible for overseeing adherence to policies on intellectual property, for ensuring integrity in the conduct of research, and for overseeing policies and practices that have proper regard to the ethics of human research.)

Role

2.(1) The committee is established to address The University of Western Australia's responsibilities to protect all parties involved in human research including research participants, researchers and the Institution in accordance with the 'National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research'.

(The 'National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research' is jointly promulgated by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), the Australian Research Council (ARC) and Universities Australia (UA) and The University of Western Australia is bound by its guidelines and requirements.)

(2) The role of the committee is to—

(a) protect the welfare, rights, dignity and safety of people who are participants in research activities conducted under the auspices of The University of Western Australia by ensuring that the involvement of human participants in research reviewed by the Committee is justified and research proposals are ethically acceptable;

(b) review applications seeking ethics approval for which the 'National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research' requires review by a Human Research Ethics Committee.

(c) ensure that human research reviewed by the Committee is designed and conducted in accordance with an ethically approved research protocol and in compliance with the standards and guidelines documented in the 'National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research'.

(Refer to Section 5.1.6(a) and (b) of the National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research, 2007.)

(d) advise, and recommend to, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) with respect to the ethical acceptability of human research reviewed by the Committee, and decide whether a research proposal should be approved or rejected on ethics grounds.

(e) advise, and recommend to, the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research) in relation to—

(i) the progress of research reviewed by the Committee;

(ii) unforeseen and/or adverse events affecting the ethical acceptability of human research; and

(iii) continuation, withdrawal or modification of the terms of approval of human research;

(f) receive and address complaints from research participants, research workers and/or others relating to the ethical conduct of human research, and provide a confidential and independent mechanism for dealing with ethics complaints;

(g) maintain records relating to human research reviewed by the Committee at least sufficient to ensure compliance with the 'National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research'.

(h) advise, and recommend to, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) in relation to any other ethics issue, or human research project, on which the Committee's experience and expertise is sought; and

(i) promote the awareness and education of researchers, research participants and other stakeholders in relation to ethical issues in human research.

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Membership

3.(1) The minimum membership of the committee must satisfy the requirements of the 'National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research'.

(The minimum membership of a HREC is eight (see Section 5.1.29 to 5.1.33 of the National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research, 2007.) As far as possible: (a) there should be equal numbers of men and women; and (b) at least one third of members should be from outside the institution for which the HREC is reviewing research.)

(2) The minimum membership for the committee is—

(a) a chairperson, with suitable experience, whose other responsibilities will not impair the committee's capacity to carry out its obligations under the 'National Statement';

(b) at least two lay people, one man and one woman, who have no affiliation with the institution and do not currently engage in medical, scientific, legal or academic work;

(c) at least one person with knowledge of, and current experience in, the professional care, counselling or treatment of people, for example, a nurse or allied health professional;

(d) at least one person who performs a pastoral care role in a community, for example, an Aboriginal elder or a minister of religion;

(e) at least one lawyer, where possible one who is not engaged to advise the institution;

(f) at least two people with experience and expertise in research in the humanities and social sciences; and

(g) at least two people with experience and expertise in medical and health research.

(3) The committee must have a Deputy Chair with suitable experience to deputise, where required, for the Chair.

(4) The Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) appoints the Chair, Deputy Chair and members of the committee and may co-opt additional members, upon the request of the committee.

(5) The Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) may attend any meeting of the committee but has no right of vote.

(6) The Manager, Human Research Ethics may attend any meeting of the committee but has no right of vote.

(7) The committee may invite any person with appropriate expertise to attend a meeting, or to attend for specific items of a meeting, for the purpose of assisting its deliberations.

Term of office

4. The term of office for members appointed under 3(2), 3(3) and 3(4) is 3 years.

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Eligibility for a second or subsequent term of office

5. At the end of a term of office, all members are eligible for re-appointment.

Skills and/or qualifications of members

6. The skills and qualifications of members of the committee will be in accordance with the category to which they have been appointed.

Quorum

7. The quorum for the committee is five and must include the Chair, specified under 3(2)(a), or the Deputy Chair, specified under 3(3), and at least four members specified under 3(2)(b) to 3(2)(g) inclusive.

Decisions

8. Decisions of the committee are achieved as follows.

(1) Decisions are to be informed by an exchange of opinions from the membership of the committee.

(2) Where there is less than full attendance of the required minimum membership at a meeting, and a quorum is present, the Chair must be satisfied, before a decision on the ethical acceptability of a research proposal is reached, that the views of those absent have been received and considered.

(Refer to Section 5.2.30 of the National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research, 2007.)

(3) The committee must endeavour to determine its decisions by general agreement of committee members, which need not involve unanimity.

Frequency of meetings

9. The committee normally meets once each month in the months of February to December inclusive.

Delegations

10.(1) In relation to proposed research protocols for which the committee has requested changes, the committee may delegate the responsibility to ensure the acceptability of the changes and the ethical acceptability of the revised research protocol to the Chair, to another member of the Committee, to any sub-group of the committee, or to an appropriate officer of The University of Western Australia.

(2) In relation to research being reviewed by the Committee involving other institutions or agencies, the Committee may accept the ethics review and decision of another Human Research Ethics Committee that is registered with the Australian Health Ethics Committee.

Exemption from liability for committee members

11. The University of Western Australia provides indemnity for the Chair, members of the committee, and any of its delegates for any liabilities that arise as a result of a member exercising his or her duties in good faith.

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