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 the application form you need to complete the following steps:

Researchers must apply for human ethics approval in the UNSW iRECS portal