Saturday, March 17, 2012

UWA Research Ethics

Hello postgraduates and welcome to 2012.
If you are new to academic research there are several sections of the University that can assist you, help you understand our processes, and help you meet some obligations that arise when performing advanced research.
One of these sections is Research Services, which is located in the Administration building at the north end of the campus, west of Winthrop Hall. My section of Research Services is called “Research Ethics and Biosafety” and we are here to help you understand the expectations and obligations you have regarding legislation and regulation governing research that involves animals, people, genetically modified organisms, and other bio-hazards. This area is one that requires detailed compliance with laws and the highest ethical standards in working with people, animals and biological safety.
If your research deals with people, even data about people, or just observing people in day to day activities, you will need to submit your project proposal for review, possibly by a formally constituted Human Research Ethics Committee. Our Human Research Ethics Office can help you to prepare for this review.
If your research deals with animals, even for observation in the wild or the study of tissue samples, you need to submit your project proposal to a formally constituted Animal Ethics Committee. Our Animal Ethics Office can help you to prepare for this review.
If your research deals with genetically modified animals, plants, bacteria, viruses, prions, or any bio-hazardous material we have a Biosafety Office that can arrange to have your research proposal reviewed by a formally constituted Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC).
The University will not approve your research to begin without the required reviews, and you will not be able to publish your work without these reviews either. Further you, your supervisor, your school, and ultimately the University itself are also held accountable for complying with the laws and regulations on research with people, animals and biosafety.
These review committees are made up of senior researchers, specialists external to the University, representatives of organisations with an interest in research ethics, safety and animal welfare, and members of the public. These people volunteer their time and meet roughly once per month to review research proposals. Often a review will result in concerns about the ethical, welfare or safety matters of your plan being communicated to you, such that you will need to alter the practical details of your research plan and re-submit it for a second review. This all takes time.
The meeting schedule means that you are wise to consider the research ethics and safety aspects of your proposal very early in your research project plan.
We are here to assist you with that and to help you navigate the ethical, welfare and safety labyrinth of modern research. Please contact us or come and see us. You can find out more about Research Ethics and Biosafety at: or, UWA website -> Research -> Staff.
I hope you enjoy your postgraduate research here at UWA. I certainly did and trod this same path myself in the mid-2000s with human ethics review of my research.
Sincerely, Mark Dixon
Associate Director for Research Ethics and Biosafety
Research Services, The University of Western Australia

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