Apply to Human Research Ethics Committee


All research involving human participants carried out by staff or students at the University of Western Sydney must undergo ethical review. Ethical review is usually done by the UWS Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC). In some instances, projects receive external or reciprocal approval.

An application to the UWS HREC will be reviewed by either the full Human Research Ethics Committee or its Executive. The risk level of the research activity determines which committee will review the project.

For more information about the UWS HREC, please view Human Ethics Review

Peer review for research merit and integrity

Before ethical review all research must undergo review for research merit and integrity. At UWS this is done in one of the 3 ways:

  • All unfunded staff research and research projects to be carried out by coursework postgraduate or undergraduate Honours students must first undergo review by the Peer Review Committee
  • Research candidate projects go through a quality review process as part of the Early Candidature Plan and Confirmation of Candidature. Evidence of this process must be included with the ethics application.
  • Research which has received external, competitive funding and for which the researcher has submitted a Research Clearance Form to the Office of Research Services is considered peer reviewed through the grant funding process.

Researchers carrying out consultancy or short term contract research should contact humanethics@uws.edu.au for advice regarding review within a limited time frame.

Applicants intending to access UWS student records should seek the approval of the Academic Registrar (PDF, 56.88 KB) (opens in a new window) prior to applying for ethical review.

Levels of risk and the ethical review process

Under the National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research (NS) guidelines (opens in a new window), the risk level of the research activity determines which committee may review the project. The types of risk and which committee is able to review and issue a protocol is as follows:

High risk

This is defined as any research that can cause severe harm to a participant psychologically, physically, socially, economically, cause legal harm or devaluate a person's self worth (NS 2.1).

Under the National Statement, high risk applications must be reviewed by the full Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC). HREC meetings are held on the third Monday of every month, except January, and complete and assessment ready applications must be received at least 3 weeks prior to the meeting date. Please observe the deadline dates for submitting your application.

Following submission of your application:

  • Your application will undergo an initial screening to determine if it is 'assessment ready'. Any issues, such as missing attachments or signatures, incorrect responses to questions in the NEAF etc. will be communicated to you. To ensure your application is assessment ready, we recommend you check it for completeness against the Assessment Ready Checklist (PDF, 181.63 KB) (opens in a new window) prior to submitting it for review.
  • Once an assessment ready application is received it will be assigned to the next available meeting and you will receive a confirmation email advising the date of the meeting. You will receive a response from the committee within seven working days of the HREC meeting.

Low2 risk

This is defined as where the foreseeable risk to participants is greater than discomfort or where there are risks to the researcher or the participants are particularly vulnerable (NS 5.1.6). Under the National Statement, Low2 risk applications will be reviewed by the Human Research Ethics Committee. HREC meetings are held on the third Monday of every month, except January, and complete and assessment ready applications must be received at least 3 weeks prior to the meeting date. Please observe the deadline dates for submitting your application.

Following submission of your application:

  • Your application will undergo an initial screening to determine if it is 'assessment ready'. Any issues, such as missing attachments or signatures, incorrect responses to questions in the NEAF etc. will be communicated to you. To ensure your application is assessment ready, we recommend you check it for completeness against the Assessment Ready Checklist (PDF, 181.63 KB) (opens in a new window) prior to submitting it for review.
  • Once an assessment ready application is received it will be assigned to the next available meeting and you will receive a confirmation email advising the date of the meeting. You will receive a response from the committee within seven working days of the HREC meeting.

Low1 risk

This is defined as where the only foreseeable risk is one of discomfort (NS 2.1.6). Under the National Statement, Low1 risk applications may undergo expedited review and be considered by the HREC's Executive Committee. The Executive meets weekly – on Mondays – except on HREC meeting dates and public holidays.

Following submission of your application:

  • Your application will undergo an initial screening to determine if it is 'assessment ready'. Any issues, such as missing attachments or signatures, incorrect responses to questions in the NEAF etc. will be communicated to you. To ensure your application is assessment ready, we recommend you check it for completeness against the Assessment Ready Checklist (PDF, 181.63 KB) (opens in a new window) prior to submitting it for review.
  • Once an assessment ready application is received it will be assigned to the next available meeting and you will receive a confirmation email advising the date of the meeting. You will receive a response from the committee within seven working days of the HREC meeting.

Negligible risk

This is defined as where there is no foreseeable risk of harm or discomfort; and any foreseeable risk is no more that inconvenience. Where the risk, even if unlikely, is more than inconvenience, the research is not negligible risk (NS 2.1.7). Under the National Statement, negligible risk applications may be considered by the HREC's Executive Committee. The Executive meets weekly – on Mondays – except on HREC meeting dates and public holidays.

Following submission of your application:

  • Your application will undergo an initial screening to determine if it is 'assessment ready'. Any issues, such as missing attachments or signatures, incorrect responses to questions in the NEAF etc. will be communicated to you. To ensure your application is assessment ready, we recommend you check it for completeness against the Assessment Ready Checklist (PDF, 181.63 KB) (opens in a new window) prior to submitting it for review.
  • Once an assessment ready application is received it will be assigned to the next available meeting and you will receive a confirmation email advising the date of the meeting. You will receive a response from the committee within seven working days of the HREC meeting.

How to apply

Creating a NEAF

UWS uses the National Ethics Application Form (NEAF) (opens in a new window) developed by the ARC, NHMRC and Universities Australia. NEAF is a dynamic, interactive web-based software application tool on a secure server. For questions, comments and feedback about NEAF, please contact NEAF Assist at neafassist@nhmrc.gov.au or 1800 500 983. You should contact NEAF Assist if you are having problems with the way the NEAF functions or if the program is not operating properly. UWS does not have any control over NEAF functionality.

Prior to filling in the National Ethics Application Form, applicants must establish a NEAF user account and complete the 'My Details' section.  Where there is a student researcher both the supervisor and the candidate must establish a NEAF user account and complete the 'My Details' section.

  1. Go to National Ethics Application Form (NEAF) (opens in a new window) and create a new user account for both the supervisor and candidate.
  2. To populate the details fields, click the blue button – 'Copy My Details'.
  3. The candidate should initiate a proposal and invite the supervisor to review.

When you invite other NEAF users to read or edit the proposal please be aware that the NEAF does not have tracked changes functionality so you can't see what changes have been made. As a result, we strongly recommend you make a copy of the form first.

Higher Degree Candidates: your principal supervisor is the applicant but you are the principal researcher. Your principal supervisor must endorse the accuracy and quality of the proposed research and of the completed NEAF. Your principal supervisor must also sign the NEAF.

Honours/Masters Coursework and HDR candidates should ensure they tick 'student' in the application. This process will bring up the sections to be completed by the principal and other supervisors. Your principal supervisor must sign the form.

All applicants must sign the application. This can be done by printing out the signature page(s) and signing, then scanning and attaching the scanned pages to the application. UWS does not require the Dean of School or Institute Director's signature. Hard copy of the application is no longer required.

Please refer to Helpful Hints for Completing the National Ethics Application Form (NEAF) (opens in a new window) for further information.

Core attachments

A number of core attachments in addition to the NEAF may be needed to complete your human ethics application. These core attachments may include a participant information sheet and consent form, a questionnaire, and/or an interview schedule.

UWS HREC requires applicants to use the templates provided at Research Forms unless otherwise arranged with the Human Ethics Officer.

Application checklist

If this is an Honours student or HDR candidate project:

  • The Applicant is the Supervisor. The UWS staff member is responsible for all content in the application and its quality. Supervisors should indicate by signing NEAF or emailing the Human Ethics Officer that they have read and approved the NEAF.
  • The Supervisor is the applicant and contact person; the student is the Principal Researcher 1. The Committee will liaise with the Applicant.

If this is a Higher Degree Research student project, please provide:

  • Confirmation of candidature documentation.

All applicants:

  • Ensure you have read the IP policy and the UWS Research Code of Practice which will guide you on data storage requirements, including duration of storage (specify in the NEAF the room, building and campus of storage).
  • Include associated documents as applicable. All consent forms, participant information sheets and other related material should be developed using the University templates when available. Please refer to Research Forms and the Assessment Ready Checklist (PDF, 181.63 KB) (opens in a new window)
  • Ensure contact details are a UWS email and address or telephone – no private email, address or telephone numbers.
  •  Check: NSW Privacy Legislation compliance.

Applicants seeking reciprocal approval must have first obtained approval for a protocol from another HREC and must provide the following:

  • The original application to the approving / administering HREC, including core attachments
  • The approval letter from the approving / administering HREC 
  • Any amendments approved by the approving / administering HREC 
  • Any other correspondence, including previous progress reports
  • A completed  HREC Reciprocal Approval Cover Sheet (PDF, 1666.15 KB) (opens in a new window)

Applicants seeking to access student records must provide:

Lodging your application

Applications may be submitted at any time throughout the year, however, applicants should note that meeting agendas are set and papers sent to the committee well in advance of the meeting date.

The nature of the project and an assessment of the risk of harm to participants will determine if the application undergoes expedited review (weekly) or will be considered by the full Human Research Ethics Committee (monthly).

Applications tabled directly to either the full HREC or the HREC Executive cannot be accepted – all applications must be submitted through the Human Ethics Officer at humanethics@uws.edu.au for registration on the University's research management database and inclusion on the next available HREC or Executive meeting agenda.

The HREC is unable to review incomplete applications. Please ensure that all questions have been responded to and all support documents are included. We recommend you check your application for completeness against the Assessment Ready Checklist (PDF, 181.63 KB) (opens in a new window) prior to submitting it for review. The checklist is used by the Human Ethics Officer to determine the completeness of all applications prior to submission to the committee for assessment.

We also recommend you consult Avoiding Common Problems and Delays with Research Ethics Applications (PDF, 27.14 KB) (opens in a new window) prior to lodgement of your application.

All named researchers are required to sign the NEAF. Electronic signatures may be inserted or the signature page can be printed out, signed, scanned and included as an attachment. Please note: UWS does not require the School Dean or Institute Director to endorse the application, although the NEAF signature page includes space for a number of school/department signatures.

NEAF requires that student and higher degree research candidate applications are submitted by the applicant – that is, the UWS staff member supervising the research.

Lodging an ethics application:

  • Save the NEAF application as a PDF document using the applicant's surname to identify the document (the applicant is in all circumstances a UWS staff member).
  • Have the signature pages signed and attached to the NEAF. Note: There is no need to have the head of the academic unit sign the application.
  • Do not give attachments long file names. If there are a lot of attachments, and/or if the attachments make more sense if read in a particular order, please number them e.g. 1.NEAF; 2.Participant Information sheet; 3.Consent form; 4.Interview schedule etc.
  • Email a copy of the NEAF and the required attachments to the Human Ethics Officer at humanethics@uws.edu.au
  • Ensure you keep a copy of the email, including the NEAF and all attachments for your records.
  • If the application relates to an HDR candidate's project, include evidence that the confirmation of candidature has been completed.

Lodging a Peer Review application:

If you are a postgraduate coursework or Honours student, your supervisor should apply for research merit and integrity (Tier 1) review by emailing a copy of the NEAF and required attachments to the relevant Peer Review Committee

HREC meeting dates and submission deadlines

2015 meeting dates and submission deadlines
Submission deadline Meeting date
27 January 2015 16 February 2015
23 February 2015 16 March 2015
30 March 2015 20 April 2015
27 April 2015 18 May 2015
25 May 2015 15 June 2015
29 June 2015 20 July 2015
27 July 2015 17 August 2015
24 August 2015 21 September 2015
28 September 2015 19 October 2015
26 October 2015 16 November 2015
23 November 2015 7 December 2015
  • All applications are subject to initial review by the Human Ethics Officer and you may be required to make changes to the application form and attachments before submission to the HREC. To minimise delays in having your application assessed by the committee, we recommend you check your application for completeness against the Assessment Ready Checklist (PDF, 181.63 KB) (opens in a new window) prior to submitting it for review.
  • Proposals involving not greater than minimal risk will be reviewed by the HREC Executive on a weekly basis – excepting the third Monday of each month when the full committee meets, and on public holidays.
  • Submission deadlines are indicative only as the HREC can only review a certain number of applications per meeting. After that number, applications may need to go to the next available meeting.

Amendments to approved protocols

From time to time it may be necessary to adjust or amend aspects of an approved human ethics protocol – for example, the addition of new researchers or the discontinuation of some researchers; changes to the recruitment procedure; addition or change to a site or a survey instrument. All amendment requests should be submitted using the Amendment Request form PDF, 1664.76 KB (opens in a new window)

How to progress an amendment request:

  • For time extensions – provide details of the work done so far and reasons for the extension. Include the amount of time required in the extension (generally this will not be granted for more than 12 months).
  • For additional researchers or students listed on the protocol – provide details as per Section 2 of NEAF.
  • For additional sites – provide details as per Section 4 of NEAF.
  • For changes to recruitment method, research design or instruments – provide a summary of changes to the approved protocol and details of the requested revised approach. Include any new or revised attachments such as surveys, interview questions, participant information sheets etc. and a revised NEAF that includes the proposed changes.

Amendment Request forms should be sent to the Human Ethics Officer at humanethics@uws.edu.au

Amendment requests that change the recruitment methods, research design, instruments etc. are assigned for review in the same way as applications.