Applying for human ethics approval

The University has a Human Ethics Committee (HEC) which reviews, approves and monitors research projects involving human participants, their data or tissue.

The Human Ethics Committee (HEC) is responsible for the assessment of human ethics applications. The committee ensures that human research proceeds  in accordance with the Human Ethics Policy, promotes awareness of ethical issues related to human research, and provides guidance and support to researchers. For any inquiries, email the Research Office ethics team.

The application process

Applications for ethics approval are completed online in ResearchMaster. Many staff and students have access to ResearchMaster automatically, but if you don’t, complete the application form available in the sidebar and email it to the Research Office ethics team.

When you begin your online application you will be asked to select the form for the committee you are applying to. Victoria University of Wellington has one central Human Ethics Committee.

If your research includes areas of ethical risk, it will be reviewed as a Category A application and discussed at a face-to-face meeting of the committee. You should submit a Category A application in time for the deadline for the committee's meeting. If your research is low risk, it can proceed as a Category B application, and will be reviewed between meetings. You can submit a Category B application at any point.

You will complete a self-assessment form when you begin your online application to indicate if your research is Category A or B. The Research Office will determine the final risk category once you submit.

Timeframes

You must have confirmation of approval before you begin any formal research procedures, such as recruitment or data collection. The HEC does not award retrospective approval. Make sure you leave plenty of time to complete ethics requirements before the start of your research project.

After you submit, your application will be pre-reviewed by the Research Office to check that it is complete before being sent to the committee. This takes about five working days. Once your application is at an appropriate standard, it will be sent forward for review. If your application is heard at a meeting (Category A), you should receive the outcome from the committee within five working days after the meeting. If your application is assessed as a Category B, you should receive the outcome about ten working days after the application is sent for review. Timeframes can vary depending on committee workload. Particularly busy times of year include the start of the first trimester (March to May) and the end of the year (November and December).

Your application could be approved after committee review or you may be asked to revise the application and resubmit for approval. You should take this into account when planning the timeline of your research project.

    Human ethics applications and COVID-19

    The Human Ethics Committee will continue to process applications as normal and are well set up for working online. Category A applications continue to be processed at virtual committee meetings and the schedule for deadlines and meetings remains the same.

    Applications submitted for review should be for research projects that are up to date and reflect appropriate planning for COVID-19, bearing in mind the situation is fluid and restricts face-to-face interactions and domestic and international travel. We do not want to use reviewers’ time assessing proposals that speculate and these will be sent back at the pre-review stage.

    A relevant principle of our ethics policy is minimisation of harm to participants, researchers, and the University. Also of relevance is the principle that researchers should be aware of the social and cultural context of their research. Therefore research projects that can proceed in this environment should take into account the impact of the pandemic on their participants and their priorities at this time.

    Amendments are required for changes to approved procedures, including moving data collection online. Researchers are encouraged to reflect on how best to proceed with their project in the new climate. When you have a clear idea of how your procedures and timelines will change you should submit an amendment through the normal process.

    The Committee has discussed some tips for researchers looking to conduct interviews or focus groups virtually.

    Preparing your application

    The Human Ethics Policy and Guidelines are the core documents that regulate what the Human Ethics Committee expects from applications for ethics approval. They may contain specific guidance that relates to your research project so check them carefully.

    Other useful University documents for preparing your application are:

    The below documents have not been prepared by Victoria University of Wellington but they may help you in constructing your application.

    Template documents

    The HEC has prepared templates which you can use to develop information and consent forms for your application. You should tailor these forms to your specific project—this means removing all the guidance notes and inserting the details of your research.

    If your research methods are not covered below, use the Information Sheet and Consent Form templates for Interviews and adapt it to your project.

    If you have different types of participants, such as teachers and students, then you should include documents tailored to each group. These should be written for that specific audience to provide appropriate and relevant information to potential participants.

    Deadlines

    The Human Ethics Committee (HEC) meet regularly throughout the year to consider applications. Category A applications (higher risk applications that require discussion at a committee meeting) are due by the deadlines below for discussion at that meeting. These deadlines do not apply to Category B applications which may be submitted at any time. Meetings are open to applicants and their supervisors by prior arrangement. Contact the Research Office ethics team to arrange this: hec@vuw.ac.nz.

    2021 HEC meeting dates

    Deadline Meeting
    Thursday 8 July 2021Thursday 22 July 2021
    Tuesday 27 July 2021Tuesday 10 August 2021
    Thursday 12 August 2021Thursday 26 August 2021
    Tuesday 31 August 2021Tuesday 14 September 2021
    Thursday 16 September 2021Thursday 30 September 2021
    Tuesday 28 September 2021Tuesday 12 October 2021
    Thursday 14 October 2021Thursday 28 October 2021
    Tuesday 26 October 2021Tuesday 9 November 2021
    Thursday 11 November 2021Thursday 25 November 2021
    Tuesday 23 November 2021Tuesday 7 December 2021