RMIT Human Research Ethics Committee
Terms of reference
1. Title of committee
RMIT University Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC)
2. Policy reference
The RMIT University Human Research Ethics Committee is accountable to the PVC Research and Innovation. It also reports to the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) through the Australian Health Ethics Committee (AHEC).
No research by RMIT staff or students involving humans as participants may be conducted unless it has the prior written approval of the HREC or of a College Human Ethics Advisory Network (CHEAN).
The primary role of the HREC is to ensure human research at RMIT University is conducted ethically, and protects the welfare and rights of participants and researchers. In doing this the Committee will ensure that any human research conducted at RMIT is ethically reviewed and monitored in accordance with the National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research (2007), hereafter referred to as the ‘Statement’.
4. Committee practices
The Human Research Ethics Committee shall: -
- Consider ethical implications of proposed human research projects and determine whether or not they are acceptable on ethical grounds;
- Provide for monitoring of human research projects until completion, so that the committee may be satisfied that they continue to conform with approved ethical standards;
- Review any proposed minor or major amendments to approved projects;
- Maintain a record of all the research projects involving humans that are considered, in accordance with the requirements of the Statement. The protocols of research proposals shall be preserved in the form in which they are approved;
- Ensure that polices and procedures regarding ethical human research are in place;
- Report to the RMIT Research Committee on activities of the committee and human research ethics issues;
- Oversee all aspects of human research ethics governance.
4.2.1. The minimum membership of the HREC is prescribed by the Statement and at least one third of the members should be from outside RMIT. Membership of the Committee shall be confirmed and amended by the RMIT Research Committee. Members are appointed for their knowledge, qualities and experience.
RMIT will provide all members with legal protection in respect of liabilities that may arise in the course of bona fide conduct of their duties.
Membership shall comprise:
- Nominee of the Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) (Chair);
- Nominee of the Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation (Deputy Chair):
- at least two members who are lay people, one man and one woman, who have no affiliation with RMIT, and are not currently engaged in medical, scientific, legal or academic work;
- at least one member with knowledge of, and current experience in, the professional care, counselling or treatment of people (eg. a nurse or allied health professional);
- at least one member who performs a pastoral care role in a community, for example Aboriginal elder or a minister of religion;
- at least one member who is a lawyer, but not a lawyer engaged to advise the institution;
- One or more representatives from each RMIT college, with research experience relevant to research proposals regularly considered by the committee. These representatives will normally be the chair, or deputy chair, of the College Human Ethics Advisory Network.
- Such other members as nominated by the PVC Research and Innovation
4.2.2. The Committee shall have the authority to co-opt additional members to assist with deliberations on specific matters; the HREC will establish a pool of academic staff with specialist knowledge of specific discipline areas. Attendance of individual members of this group at meetings will be requested when the HREC is to review a project in a specific or cognate area of discipline specialty.
4.2.3. The Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) shall appoint an Ethics Officer to provide administrative support to the Committee;
4.2.4. No member of the HREC shall adjudicate on an application in which that member has any conflict of interest including any personal involvement or participation in the research, any financial interest in the outcome or any involvement in competing research.
4.3.1. The term of membership of external members shall be for three years;
4.3.2. The term of membership of internal members shall be for three years;
4.3.3. The term of membership of the chair and deputy chair shall be for three years;
4.3.4. Retiring members are eligible for reappointment.
The quorum for a meeting shall be a majority of the membership of the Committee. In the absence of both the Chair and Deputy Chair a member elected by the members present shall preside.
4.5.1. The Committee shall meet as required, normally monthly from February to November.
4.5.2. The Committee shall meet to consider and to approve applications formally. In exceptional circumstances the Chairperson of the Committee may grant approval, provisional or otherwise, under a standing delegation from the Committee or on the recommendation of the majority of the Committee.
- The Committee should strive to reach decisions by general agreement; this need not involve unanimity.
- Where there is less than full attendance of the minimum membership at a meeting the Chair should ensure that those absent have had the opportunity to comment and their views have been considered.
- Agendas for meetings listing matters to be discussed and with supporting documents shall be distributed, to be received by members at least five days in advance of the meeting date.
- Minutes shall be recorded of all meetings and confirmed at the subsequent meeting.
- The contents of research protocols and Committee proceedings shall be confidential although the Committee may choose to release its minutes to nominated people.
4.5.3. Records of all decisions shall be maintained in accordance with the requirements of the Statement.
4.5.4. The procedures and guidelines, and the ethical principles to govern human research adopted by the Committee will be made widely known to the University community. A pro forma for the presentation of research protocols will be published, together with information to assist applicants in assessing their proposed research and applying for approval.
4.5.5. In discharging its responsibilities, the Committee may seek assistance of such experts or advocates for participants as it chooses.
4.5.6. Absent members of the Committee may be represented by a proxy, advised in writing to the Secretary of the RMIT HREC no later than the advertised time of commencement of the meeting.
4.5.7. A member may not be represented by a proxy at more than three meetings in any calendar year. A proxy may not be a current member of the Committee.
4.5.8. The Committee may also develop innovative processes using information technologies to conduct its business.
5. Human research in other institutions
5.1. Members of the staff of RMIT University may undertake human research at an institution affiliated with the University, or other appropriate institution as determined by the Committee, provided written approval has been obtained for such research and experimentation from a duly authorised officer or committee of that institution.
5.2. Notwithstanding the above, where such research by/with enrolled students or members of the staff of RMIT University involves human participants for whom that hospital or other institution does not take responsibility, approval must be obtained from the relevant College Human Ethics Advisory Network or the RMIT HREC before such studies are undertaken.
5.3. With any multi-centre research the Committee will have regard for the guidelines for review and monitoring outlined in the Statement.
5.4. When requested by the Pro Vice-Chancellor Research and Innovation, the Committee will review project protocols from researchers at affiliated and/or non-affiliated institutions.
6. Reporting, review and improvement
The Committee will report annually to the RMIT Research Committee against its rationale, operations and continuous quality improvement processes. It also is required to submit an annual report to the Australian Health Ethics Committee (AHEC) of the NHMRC.