COVID-19 Updates (Human Ethics)

How does COVID-19 affect my research?
The University Research Continuity Working Group is assessing the impact of COVID-19 on ANU research. Please refer to the University COVID-19 ethics advice and check the COVID-19 news page regularly for updates.

Updated 28 May 2020

Ethics applications and variations

The ANU Human Research Ethics Committee (and delegated committees) are working hard with the Research Ethics Team to keep to our usual application review cycles, based on the usual submission deadlines.

Please keep in mind that:

  • Not all Committees are running at full capacity. We request that applicants are polite and patient during the submission and review process - Committee members are your fellow colleagues.
  • Due to the ever-changing nature of the current situation and the increased risk environment for research participants, the review of applications is taking longer and there may be delays in the review of your application. Every effort will be made to communicate delays directly with applicants.

Priority will continue to be given to applications/variations that:

  1. Are required for research directly related to COVID, or
  2. Are essential variations to existing protocols that will minimise risk/distress to participants.

In order for these priority submissions to be actioned appropriately, please email to alert the Ethics Team ahead of submission, and include “Priority Submission” in the subject line.

Re-introduction of face-to-face research

With research activity increasing on campus, regulatory requirements must still be met in regards to ethics protocols, and any changes in government restrictions will immediately override any protocols in place around resumed research. Any new work proposed would need to provide a strong argument as to why face-to-face methods are integral to the research as opposed to other approaches, which would minimise in-person interactions.

All researchers looking to resume face-to-face research must develop contingency plans should restrictions tighten again. Careful consideration and planning is required to prevent placing participants at risk for little or no benefit because data collection methods have had to be modified part way through a project due to the ever changing COVID-19 situation, potentially rendering early collection with differing methods unusable. Contingency plans would also allow for immunocompromised individuals to participate, and/or those potential participants who would be uncomfortable with face-to-face methods but would like to be involved.

As part of restarting face-to-face research, it is a requirement that all relevant COVID-19 related social distancing and hygiene practices are implemented.

Research on COVID-19

The current pandemic may be seen as an opportunity to conduct new research related to COVID-19 and to expand the scope of existing research to incorporate new work related to COVID-19. Any COVID-19 elements that are not fundamentally aligned with the original application must be submitted as a new application; variations will not be accepted.

In line with normal practice all projects must be undertaken with appropriate acknowledgement and management of the risks involved. Any new protocol or variation must clearly consider the risks associated with the work, including the likelihood that risks will escalate over the course of the work. Effective strategies must be developed to minimise harm to participants, and the research must be demonstrated to have realistic benefits that significantly outweigh any potential harms. Failure to acknowledge, address and manage the risks appropriately will result in your application being returned to you for modification. In turn, this delays the turnaround time for all applicants.

The current pandemic situation is highly stressful for everyone, and in Australia this comes after a horrific bushfire season. There is a real risk of psychological harm in asking participants questions related to COVID-19 as the pandemic continues to worsen. Further, as the COVID-19 situation evolves rapidly, the risks associated with the research may escalate quickly and require researchers to invoke stronger mitigation strategies, including suspending the research if the risks become unmanageable.

Monitoring of the research must be vigilant and prompt action taken, including reporting, if adverse events occur. The Human Research Ethics Committee (and delegated committees) will hold both new protocols and variations to existing protocols to the usual high standard expected from the ANU.

Applications from research students

Applications from Masters, Honours and HDR students must be fully reviewed by the supervisor prior to submission and must be in line with University communications concerning that student group - an email from the supervisor indicating the review is complete should be uploaded to the documents section of the application in ARIES.


Resources and Information

COVID-19 and Research

Services, Training, Events

Current Travel Advice

Page owner: Research Services