Negligible Risk Research

Human research that is of negligible risk is where the only foreseeable risk is an inconvenience.

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.

The final submission closing date for 2021 will be Tuesday 8th December for review on the 15th of December. The first submission closing date for 2022 will be Tuesday 11th January for review on the 18th January for UNSW Canberra and Biomedical applications (see HREAP D for relevant Schools). The first submission closing date for all other negligible risk applications will be Tuesday 25th January for review on the 1st February.

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Criteria for classifying negligible risk research

Research involving the following is considered negligible risk:

  • 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 that does not include personal medical or health information and a waiver of request is required.  
  • 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 only non-identifiable data is collected. 

The research excluded from review at the negligible risk level: 

  • Recruitment and inclusion of participants in unequal or dependent relationships with the researchers; 
  • Recruitment and inclusion of vulnerable populations; 
  • Recruitment and inclusion of children as participants;
  • Identification of participants (or the potential to) in the results or publications of the research; 
  • Access or use of data for a secondary research purpose where the research team may uncover an individual’s identity.
  • Access to or secondary use of personal, medical or health information without the person’s consent or where a waiver is being requested.
  • Research topics and questions that are sensitive or have the potential to be considered as such.
  • Research that has the potential to induce feelings of anxiety or introduce emotional or reputational risks;
  • Research involving focus groups as a data collection method; 
  • 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. 

Definition of Sensitive Topics

The following topics and or questions are defined as sensitive: 

  • Topics, questions or activities that deal with private, controversial, 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 stigmatising, incriminating or may impact employability somehow. E.g. research that may reveal illegal behaviours as part of the data collection. 
  • Researching the ‘vested interests’ of the powerful in a society where researchers may trespass into areas that involve some 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. 

Examples of Inconvenience

  • Examples of inconvenience may include completing an anonymous online survey containing non-sensitive questions, observing people using 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.
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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 HREC.

Student Research Projects

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

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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.

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