Negligible Risk Research

Negligible Risk Submission Closing Dates

Negligible risk research applications are reviewed on a weekly basis and are due 5pm Tuesday for consideration at the following Tuesday meeting. Outcomes of the meeting will be circulated via email within 10 business days from the meeting date.

What is Negligible Risk Research?

Negligible Risk research is where there is no foreseeable risk of harm or discomfort; and any foreseeable risk is not more than inconvenience. Where the risk, even if unlikely, is more than inconvenience, the research is not negligible risk.

At UNSW the following research activities will be considered negligible risk research: 

  • Short surveys: Anonymous self-administered short surveys where the research topic and questions are not sensitive and will not induce feelings of anxiety or have the potential to introduce emotional or reputational risks. 
  • Secondary use of non-identifiable data or biospecimens: Data where consent at the time of collection was obtained to access, share and use the data for secondary research purposes. 
  • Secondary use of non-identifiable data where a waiver is requested to access data that does not include personal, medical or health information.  
  • Short structured interviews: Short Interviews involving a structured set of questions where the research topic and questions are not sensitive, will not induce feelings of anxiety or have the potential to introduce emotional or reputational risks. The interview must not collect identifying information from participants, and the participant must not be (or potentially be) identifiable in publications. 
  • Observational studies: Observational studies (with no form of intervention) of people undertaking non-sensitive, benign activities in a public space that will not be recorded or photographed and will not (or have the potential to) identify individuals. 
  • Interventions/Experiments: Research involving participants undergoing a non-clinical intervention/assessment task (e.g. activity), involving non-sensitive, non-controversial topics, and where only non-identifiable data is collected. 

Research involving the following will be excluded from review under the negligible risk review process: 

  • Recruitment and/or inclusion of participants in unequal or dependent relationships with the researchers; 
  • Recruitment and/or inclusion of vulnerable populations; 
  • Recruitment and/or inclusion of children as participants;
  • Identification of participants (or the potential to) in the results or publications of the research; 
  • Secondary use of data where there is the potential for a member of the research team to uncover the identity of an individual within the dataset; 
  • Secondary use of data where a waiver is requested to access data that does not include personal, medical or health information.  
  • Research topics and/or questions that are sensitive or have the potential to be considered as such (see below); 
  • Research that has the potential to induce feelings of anxiety or introduce emotional or reputational risks; 
  • Research involving active concealment or planned deception; 
  • Research where participation requires a time commitment of more than 30 minutes in total including travel; 
  • Research conducted overseas. 

Sensitive topics and or questions are defined as the following for the purpose of classifying negligible risk research: 

  • Topics, questions or activities that deal with areas that are private, stressful or sacred (as perceived by the participant. E.g. research into sexual or religious practices, death or dying, birth, pregnancy, illness, mental health, grief, sexual abuse, violence, drug use, discrimination, displacement, migration or homelessness.  
  • Studies where there is a possibility that research may reveal illegal or embarrassing information that is stigmatizing, incriminating or may impact employability in some way. E.g. research that may reveal illegal behaviours as part of the data collection. 
  • Researching the ‘vested interests’ of the powerful in society where researchers may trespass into areas that involve some sort of social conflict. E.g. investigating participants’ opinions of public policy in politically unstable countries, or among migrants, refugees, ethnic minority groups or low-income groups. 
What is Inconvenience?

Inconvenience is less serious than discomfort. Examples of inconvenience may include completing an online anonymous survey containing non-sensitive questions, observing people using a public space or analysing de-identified datasets. By comparison, examples of discomforts may include minor side-effects of medication, the discomforts related to measuring blood pressure, and anxiety induced by an interview.

What if my research is more than Negligible Risk?

If you are conducting more than negligible risk research (i.e., low risk or greater than low risk research) you will be required to obtain ethical approval in accordance with the requirements of the National Statement.

Applications for low risk research are to be submitted to your relevant Human Research Advisory Panel (HREAP). Applications for more than low risk research are to be submitted to the Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC).

If you are still unsure whether your research is negligible risk, please contact the Human Ethics Team for guidance and advice.

Submission requirements

To submit the application form you need to complete the following steps:

  1. Attach your completed Negligible Risk Research Application Form (and all corresponding documents) to an email.
  2. Attach an email or letter of support for the project from Head of School (if applicable)
  3. In the cc section of the email, copy in the named student investigator and co-investigators listed on the application (if applicable).
  4. The person listed as the Chief Investigator must send the application using their work email address.
  5. Submit email to with Negligible Risk Research Application marked in the ‘subject’ title section of the email.
  6. Your form will be reviewed by the Human Research Advisory Panel (HREAP) Executive at its next available meeting. 
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.