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 and one subcommittee. If your research falls within the Faculty of Law or Wellington School of Business and Government, apply to the Pipitea subcommittee.

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 and the Pipitea subcommittee 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.

    Applications over the 2020/2021 summer period

    The last HEC meeting of the year is on Tuesday 8 December and the deadline for that is Tuesday 24 November. If your application is a Category A and needs to be heard at a meeting, this is the date you will need to have it to us. The first HEC meeting of 2021 is on Thursday 28 January and the deadline for that is Thursday 14 January. So if your application is received by us after 24 November, it will be reviewed at the meeting on 28 January.

    The last Pipitea subcommittee meeting of the year is on Thursday 17 December and the deadline for that is Thursday 3 December. If your application is a Category A, this is the date you will need to have it submitted. The first Pipitea subcommittee meeting of 2021 is on Tuesday 16 February and the deadline for that is Tuesday 2 February.

    Category B applications, which don’t need to be heard at a meeting, aren’t subject to these deadlines, but the last working day for the university is Friday 18 December and the Category B process takes at least two to three weeks. In order to have a chance of having the committee's review completed before the end of the year, you would need to submit by Friday 27 November. We don’t guarantee this will give you approval before the end of the year, as that depends on your application and how many changes might be required prior to or after committee review.

    We do encourage you to plan ahead as we will not be asking reviewers to do any quick turn-around reviews. It has been a very long year for our reviewers, who are also academic staff members, and in December some will be teaching intensively, dealing with other work related demands as they finish outstanding tasks by 18 December or taking annual leave.

    Other business that requires only the Convenor, such as resubmissions and amendment requests, will be able to be processed until the end of year shutdown and after the University restarts on Monday 11 January. During the year there is an estimated five day turnaround for that and applicants should expect at least this timeframe over the summer months as our Convenor catches some well-deserved rest.

    Deadlines

    The Human Ethics Committee (HEC) and the Pipitea subcommittee 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: ethicsadmin@vuw.ac.nz.

    2021 HEC meeting dates

    Deadline Meeting
    Thursday 14 January 2021Thursday 28 January 2021
    Tuesday 26 January 2021Tuesday 9 February 2021
    Thursday 11 February 2021Thursday 25 February 2021
    Tuesday 16 February 2021Tuesday 2 March 2021
    Thursday 11 March 2021Thursday 25 March 2021
    Tuesday 30 March 2021Tuesday 13 April 2021
    Thursday 15 April 2021Thursday 29 April 2021
    Tuesday 20 April 2021Tuesday 4 May 2021
    Thursday 13 May 2021Thursday 27 May 2021
    Tuesday 25 May 2021Tuesday 8 June 2021
    Thursday 10 June 2021Thursday 24 June 2021

    Pipitea subcommittee

    The Pipitea subcommittee meets monthly throughout the year from February to December. These meetings are open to applicants and their supervisors by prior arrangement. For any queries, contact the Research Office: ethicsadmin@vuw.ac.nz.

    2021 Pipitea HEC meeting dates

    Deadline Meeting
    Tuesday 2 February 2021Tuesday 16 February 2021
    Tuesday 2 March 2021Tuesday 16 March 2021
    Wednesday 7 April 2021Tuesday 20 April 2021
    Tuesday 4 May 2021Tuesday 18 May 2021
    Tuesday 1 June 2021Tuesday 15 June 2021
    Tuesday 6 July 2021Tuesday 20 July 2021
    Tuesday 3 August 2021Tuesday 17 August 2021