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Research Conducted by External Parties Approval Policy

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Section 1 - Purpose and Context

(1) This policy applies to Higher Degree Research (HDR) students and Honours students who are currently enrolled at an Australian university, other than Western Sydney University (University), seeking to include Western Sydney University enrolled students and/or University staff as participants in their research.

(2) The policy may also apply to other external agencies and organisations who wish to include Western Sydney University enrolled students and/or University staff as participants in their Research.

(3) The policy should be read in conjunction with the Code of Conduct, Research Code of Practice, Research Data Management PolicyPrivacy Policy, Records and Archives Management Policy and NHMRC Values and Ethics - Guidelines for Ethical Conduct in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Research.

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Section 2 - Definitions

(4) For the purposes of this policy, definitions that apply can be found in the Policy DDS Glossary.

(5) Refer to the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research, 2018 for more information on defining the concept of research.

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Section 3 - Policy Statement

(6) This policy sets out the principles and consistent criteria for approving research activity to ensure that:

  1. a uniform standard of protection is provided for all enrolled students and University staff;
  2. decisions made by authorised officers are consistent and made in accordance with established guidelines;
  3. potential researchers have a clear understanding of what is required prior to developing proposals;
  4. external researchers conducting research in more than one Division, School or Unit do not have to conform to different and possibly conflicting requirements;
  5. all research involving enrolled students and/or University staff is conducted in accordance with the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research, 2018 and National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research.

(7) The principles and criteria in this policy should be used as a basis for evaluating and providing approval for proposals to conduct research involving enrolled students and/or University staff to ensure that the findings of such research do not adversely affect the members of the University community or the University's repute in the wider community, including:

  1. Anonymity and Confidentiality: Researchers must protect the anonymity and confidentiality of participants;
  2. Access to Information: Enrolled students and/or University staff have the right to determine whether information which can be linked to them personally is made available by other parties for research purposes;
  3. Sensitivity: The University has a responsibility to ensure that enrolled students and/or University staff are treated with sensitivity and with due regard to their gender, sexual orientation, cultural, religious, and other beliefs, including cultural sensitivities associated with research involving Indigenous Australians, and that the terminology and categorisation used is respectful;
  4. Minimisation of Risk or Harm: The University has a duty to ensure that enrolled students and/or University staff are protected at all times from physical, psychological and other forms of harm;
  5. Prevention of Unnecessary Disruption: The University has a responsibility to ensure that research activity does not impose an undue burden on enrolled students and University staff;
  6. Methodological Adequacy: The University has a responsibility to ensure that research methodologies are appropriate and capable of providing valid findings;
  7. Commercial Gain: The University does not approve research undertaken primarily for commercial or material gain, except as provided under Commercial Gain below.

(8) The University welcomes research as both valid in its own right and a significant way of helping to maintain and improve the quality of academic endeavour.

(9) The University has a responsibility to ensure that the research conducted does not infringe upon the rights or jeopardise the welfare of enrolled students and staff employed by the University, and that research activity does not impede the ability of the University to fulfil its core responsibilities.

(10) The University acknowledges that research should remain relatively autonomous and that the ideal of academic freedom provides the foundation for the pursuit of knowledge without undue interference.

(11) The University embraces the ideal of fair and open discussion, recognising the rights of individuals to their own opinions, and supporting the principles of freedom of speech.

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Section 4 - Procedures

Part A - Approval of Research Proposals

(12) Research proposals from external parties must be assessed with the intention of ensuring:

  1. the rights and welfare of enrolled students and staff employed by the University are protected;
  2. the probity of research being undertaken within the University;
  3. the research question is of sufficient educational value, purpose, or significance for the University to justify the expenditure of any necessary time and effort required of enrolled students and University staff;
  4. the research methodologies are appropriate and capable of producing valid outcomes; and
  5. the research findings will be presented fairly and accurately.

(13) The approval required for research activity will depend on the scale and scope of the research in which enrolled students and/or University staff have been requested to participate. The Vice-Chancellor and President has delegated the approval of all research involving enrolled students and/or University staff to authorised officers, as outlined in the organisational chart included in the Annual Operational Plan (2022 - 2024). They are:

  1. the Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Vice-President, Research, Enterprise and International;
  2. the Pro Vice-Chancellor, Research;
  3. Deans, Directors of University Research Institutes or Unit Heads.

(14) When the research requires the University to allocate significant resources, the request must be approved by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Vice-President, Research, Enterprise and International.

(15) The University has very limited ability to support a research proposal requiring significant resources. Significant resources may include, but are not limited to:

  1. allocation of physical space;
  2. equipment, or technical support;
  3. organising forums or convening meetings of senior staff;
  4. longitudinal studies; or
  5. any other significant impact on the time of enrolled students and University staff. 

(16) Research proposals where limited resources are required and participants are drawn from across Schools, Research Institutes and/or Divisions must be approved by the Pro Vice-Chancellor, Research.

(17) Research proposals where limited resources are required and participants are drawn from within a single School, Research Institute or other Unit are approved by the appropriate Dean, Director or Unit Head.

(18) The authorised officers can establish research advisory committees when necessary to provide advice on the appropriateness of research proposals. Final approval of research proposals must be provided by the appropriate authorised officer.

(19) All research proposals must satisfy the criteria for approving applications to conduct research outlined in this policy, regardless of the level at which approval is sought.

(20) When seeking approval, researchers must provide copies of all of the appropriate documentation, as outlined in this policy.

(21) In some situations, the University may seek more detailed undertakings from researchers concerning methods of analysis and presentation of findings. Approval will be conditional on researchers agreeing to abide by such undertakings and providing such documentation as may be required.

(22) When a proposal has been permitted, researchers will be provided with written approval from the authorised officer. The approval will detail the provisions under which the approval is provided, for example, what resources the University is prepared to supply.

Part B - Criteria for Approving Research Activity

Anonymity and Confidentiality

(23) Researchers are responsible for ensuring the anonymity and confidentiality of participants is protected.

(24) If the research is conducted via a survey, information should be collected anonymously and should not be able to be linked to individual participants.

(25) When anonymity is not possible, for example, when information is gathered by audiotape, videotape or identifying information is needed to track participants in longitudinal studies, researchers must assure the confidentiality of participants and persons other than the researcher must not be able to link the information collected to individual participants.

(26) Researchers who wish to collect information that enables participants to be identified by the researcher must be able to demonstrate the necessity for collecting such information and describe the procedures which will be adopted to ensure confidentiality.

(27) Procedures for storing, accessing and disposing of data which enables participants to be identified, such as audiotapes and videotapes, need to be outlined in a data management plan, as outlined in the Research Data Management Policy. Such information should be retained for only as long as is necessary for the purpose for which it was collected; should be stored securely and protected by taking reasonable precautions against unauthorised access, use, modification or disclosure, and against all other misuse; and should be disposed of securely.

(28) Only proposals that ensure the confidentiality of participating institutions and sections of institutions will normally be permitted. However, the authorised officer may agree to waive this condition if it is considered appropriate to identify the University in the research findings.

Access to Information

(29) Researchers should obtain written consent from participants for information that can be linked to participants personally where it is intended to be released or made available by other parties for research purposes. Where it is intended to seek such information, this must be indicated clearly and unambiguously on consent forms.

(30) The authorised officers identified in Part A - Approval of Research Proposals must be informed before research commences if aggregated data identifying the University is to be reported.

Sensitivity

(31) Researchers are responsible for familiarising themselves with differences in the research population, such as gender, sexual orientation, cultural, religious, and other beliefs, including cultural sensitivities associated with research involving Indigenous Australians. Only studies that are sensitive to and respect these differences will be permitted.

(32) University employees, students, visitors, and contractors must be guided by the Code of Conduct in relation to the ethical standards that are expected to be upheld during engagement with the University.

(33) References to the University by name or in which its identity may be inferred may require specific agreement prior to the publication of the findings of the research, as outlined under Anonymity and Confidentiality.

Minimisation of Risk or Harm

(34) Research designs should not adversely affect participants' wellbeing.

(35) Examples of adverse effects include:

  1. loss of privacy;
  2. harmful social, cultural, psychological or other consequences (e.g. from the collection of information that may result in individuals becoming distressed or being 'labelled' or categorised in particular ways by their peers);
  3. foreign arrangements: approval for researchers from an overseas institution/government agency or for research is conducted in partnership with a foreign university or government will only be provided following a risk review by the University's Foreign Arrangements Team. In such instances, the Foreign Arrangements Team may contact researchers directly if additional information is required. A list of current sanctions is available on the DFAT Sanctions regimes webpage.

Prevention of Unnecessary Disruption

(36) Researchers are responsible for ensuring the research activity does not impose an undue burden on enrolled students and University staff.

(37) The potential value and contribution of the research should be of sufficient importance to warrant the involvement which participants will be asked to make.

(38) The level of disruption considered acceptable will depend on the potential value and contribution of the research.

(39) Research that imposes unacceptable levels of disruption to the core functions of the University will not be permitted.

Methodological Adequacy

(40) The researcher is responsible for articulating and providing justification for the methodology to be used, and to outline strategies employed to ensure methodological validity and reliability.

(41) The University reserves the right to withhold approval of studies that are considered to be methodologically inadequate.

Commercial Gain

(42) Research proposals for research undertaken primarily for commercial or material gain are not generally approved, unless there is a compelling financial or social benefit for the University or its region.

Part C - Applications to Conduct Research

(43) Applications to conduct research must contain the essential details of the proposal and the researchers as outlined below, including;

  1. a proposal outline;
  2. a written request to the authorised officer;
  3. a list of the research instruments to be used;
  4. a copy of the information and consent letter for participants; and
  5. approval from an Ethics Committee.

(44) Applications must include an acknowledgment from all researchers that:

  1. the information supplied is correct;
  2. they agree to conduct the research in accordance with the criteria for approving applications; and
  3. they and their representatives will maintain the confidentiality of all information collected from participants.

(45) When seeking approval to conduct research, researchers should submit sufficient evidence for the authorised officer to appropriately consider the application, as outlined in the policy.

(46) Requests to conduct research must be emailed to appropriate authorised officer, as outlined in Part A – Approval of Research Proposals. All approaches to staff and students by external parties to participate in research, by what ever means or media platform, must align to this policy.

Proposal Outline

(47) Requests must include an outline of the research proposal which indicates:

  1. the research questions or hypotheses;
  2. the context and background for the research;
  3. the means by which the data/information will be gathered;
  4. the participants from whom the data/information will be gathered;
  5. the methods for ensuring the privacy of participants;
  6. the methods by which data will be analysed;
  7. the details of the Data Management Plan;
  8. a timeline for the research;
  9. the ethics approval notification or number from the researchers’ organisation, or equivalent.

Request to the Authorised Officer

(48) Approaches to the authorised officer  (as per Part A) seeking approval to approach enrolled students and/or University staff must be accompanied by documentation outlining the nature of the research and the commitment required of University staff. A copy of this documentation must be included with the proposal.

Research Instruments

(49) The research instruments should be identified in the research proposal. The researcher is not required to submit copies of research instruments such as interview schedules, questionnaires, or other data collection instruments (including tests or stimulus materials) as part of their application.

Information and Consent Letter

(50) The researcher is required to provide a copy of the documentation for distribution to all participants Information/consent letters must satisfy requirements in accordance with the criteria for approving applications, as per Part A – Approval of Research Proposals.

(51) Where researchers intend to collect information that enables participants to be identified by the researcher, the procedures for storing, accessing and disposing of data, as outlined under Anonymity and Confidentiality, should be described.

(52) Researchers should make the results of the research available to participants.

Approval from an Ethics Committee

(53) Researchers are required to conduct their research in accordance with the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research, 2018 and the National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research and provide evidence that ethical clearance has been granted by their institutional or relevant external accredited ethics committee. The principles outlined in this policy are not intended as a code of ethics for researchers.

(54) Researchers are responsible for ensuring they conduct their research in accordance with the codes of conduct that apply in the institutions and/or organisations with which they are affiliated.

(55) Notification of the approval of the (host) university ethics committee or external agency must be supplied before final approval can be granted.

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Section 5 - Guidelines

(56) Nil.