Low Risk Research

The UNSW Australia Human Research Ethics Advisory Panels consists of eight discipline-based panels concerned with research which has low risk ethical impact

Low Risk Research

The expression ‘low risk research’ describes research in which the only foreseeable risk is one of discomfort. Where the risk, even if unlikely, is more than discomfort, the research is not low risk (Section 2.1.6 National Statement).

Discomfort is defined in the National Statement as less serious than harm, and may involve body and/or mind. Examples of discomfort from the National Statement include:  

  • minor side-effects of medication,  
  • the discomforts related to measuring blood pressure,   
  • anxiety induced by an interview. 

At UNSW the following research activities are considered low risk research:   

  • Surveys where the research topic and questions will not induce (or have the potential to) distress or cause reputational or professional harms;    
  • Secondary use of identifiable data or biospecimens where consent at the time of collection was obtained to access, share and use the data for secondary research purposes;   
  • Secondary use of identifiable data where a waiver is requested to access data that does not include personal medical or health information;    
  • Interviews or Focus Groups: Interviews or Focus Groups where the research topic and guiding questions will not (or have the potential to) induce distress or cause reputational or professional harms;    
  • Interventions/Experiments: Research involving participants undergoing a non-clinical intervention/assessment task (e.g. activity) where the research tasks may induce discomfort but will not (or will not have the potential to) induce distress, cause reputational or professional harms, and/or involve an element of active concealment or planned deception. 

Any research that falls into one of the more than low risk research categories requiring review by a Human Research Ethics Committee or where a participant may experience harms (or the potential to) is excluded from low risk review.   

HREA Panels at UNSW

Low-risk research must be submitted to the panel responsible for your school or faculty. Submission closing dates and requirements for each school or faculty vary slightly. For information on closing dates, select the relevant panel from the list below.

Submission requirements

To submit a human ethics submission the chief investigator must complete the following steps:

  1. Attach your completed application form, project description, recruitment materials and all corresponding documents to an email.
  2. Attach an email or letter of support for the project from Head of School.
  3. In the cc section of the email, copy in any named student investigator and co-investigators listed on the application.
  4. The person listed as the Chief Investigator must send the application using their work email address (gmail, hotmail or personal internet provider emails will not be accepted).
  5. Ensure your submission is made by the closing date relevant to the HREA Panel that is responsible for reviewing applications from your school or faculty. 

Student Research Projects

Student supervisors must submit student research projects.Human research proposals submitted by students will not be accepted or processed. 

Head of School Approval

All ethics submissions must be supported by a letter or email of support from the head of school*, before it can be accepted for review.  Generally this is an email provided by the head of school confirming that they have reviewed the project and are happy for it to proceed. A letter of support from the head of school must support all new human research applications unless an arrangement between the head of school and the Research Ethics Compliance Support (RECs) office has been established. The letter must indicate that the head of school has reviewed the human research application and confirm support of the application.

A letter of support from the head of school is not required for the following schools. The Chief Investigator must copy in the head of school on the submission email. 

  • Built Environment - Low and Negligible Risk Research Only
  • Social Policy Research Centre
  • Centre for Social Research and Health
  • School of Optometry and Vision Science

A letter of support from the head of school is not required for the following school. The HREC/HREAP Secretariat will provide a monthly report of applications received from this school on the 1st of each month.

  • Business School

Where the Chief Investigator is also the head of school a letter of support must be obtained from an alternate authority such as the deputy head of school or the dean.