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Research ethics

The type of research you propose to undertake will determine whether you need ethics approval from the University. Discuss the need for ethics approval with your supervisor early in your candidature as they will usually need to be listed as the Chief Investigator (CI) on any ethics application required for your project. This is because the CI must be a University staff member for risk management, insurance, and legal reasons. Although they will be listed as the CI, all investigators, including you and any other students conducting research under the protocol must be listed as investigators and have responsibilities in regard to ethics. Your supervisor should provide guidance on the preparation of an ethics application if approval is needed.

If your research involves human participants, you’ll need to submit an application for ethics approval for consideration by one of the Human Research Ethics Committees. If your research involves animal subjects, you’ll need to apply for ethics approval from one of the Animal Ethics Committees. If you’re unsure whether approval is required, contact Research Integrity & Ethics for guidance.

Carefully check the conditions of your scholarship as they may require ethics approval. You can also contact Research Integrity & Ethics for advice about this.

Ethics Committees don’t grant retrospective approval – you can’t obtain approval for research you’ve already undertaken.

Research carried out at a hospital or other institution may require approval by human ethics, animal ethics or biosafety committees outside of the University.  Discuss the need to go through any separate external ethics approval processes with your supervisor early in your candidature, and make sure that you submit your applications to the various bodies in a timely manner and in the most appropriate order. The University may accept ethics approval from external committees but we recommend you check with the University’s Research Integrity & Ethics team.

The ethics approval process

Applications are completed online. Once the declarations have been completed by all listed investigators and the application has been approved by your nominated faculty approver, the Ethics office will review your completed application prior to forwarding it on to the relevant committee meeting for review. Applications are considered by the committee on a first-submitted basis. As the committees have a cap on the number of applications they will consider in each meeting, your application may be carried forward for consideration at the next available meeting. You may also be contacted by a member of staff or committee member seeking additional information before the meeting.

Once your application has been discussed at the ethics committee meeting you will receive an email advising you of the outcome within 10 working days of the meeting. The Ethics Committee may:

  • approve your application
  • ask you to address questions or concerns raised by the committee
  • decide not to approve the application

You will be offered the opportunity to discuss the reasons for any decision not to approve an application. If you are asked to make amendments, you will need to allow additional time for your response to be reviewed. Projects are approved for 4 years, conditional on you submitting annual reports.


Ethics & Research Integrity provide online training modules for research involving humans or animals. If your faculty does not automatically enroll you, you should do so yourself.

Working with children, and criminal record checks

If your research involves direct contact with children, the University’s Working with Children Policy 2014 requires you to have a Working with Children Check clearance. More information on working with children in NSW.

For requirements for a criminal record check, consult your faculty or the NSW Department of Health.

Concerns about research ethics

If you have concerns about the ethical conduct of research at the University and want to make a complaint:

Research integrity
The Director of Research Integrity and Ethics Administration
02 8627 0200

Human ethics
Human Ethics Manager
02 9036 9161

Animal ethics
Animal Ethics Manager
02 8627 8174


Australian Research Integrity Committee

If you’ve complained to the University, but are dissatisfied with the University’s response, and if your complaint is related to research funded by the Australian Research Council (ARC) or the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), you can request a review from the Australian Research Integrity Committee (ARIC).

The Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research has more information about research integrity.

Further assistance

Contact us for advice on concerns regarding ethics and research conduct or if you are considering submitting a complaint.


The SUPRA office is closed – but you can still get help!

To help protect the health of our community during COVID-19 SUPRA's Student Advice and Advocacy Service, Legal Service and council are working from home. We are working to full capacity and are providing timely and accurate information, advice and support.