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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 who are currently enrolled at an Australian University, other than Western Sydney University seeking to include Western Sydney University enrolled students and/or University personnel as participants in their research. The policy may also apply to other external agencies and organisations who wish to include Western Sydney University enrolled students and/or University personnel as participants in their research.

(2) 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. 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 personnel employed by the University, and that research activity does not impede the ability of the University to fulfil its core responsibilities.

(3) Accordingly, proposals to conduct research at the University will be assessed with the intention of ensuring:

  1. the rights of enrolled students and personnel employed by the University are protected;
  2. the welfare of enrolled students and personnel employed by the University is ensured;
  3. the probity of research undertaken within the University;
  4. 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 personnel;
  5. the research methodologies are appropriate and capable of producing valid outcomes;
  6. the research findings will be presented fairly and accurately.

(4) It is stressed that these criteria should not be interpreted as an attempt to stifle research, but simply as an effort 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.

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Section 2 - Definitions

(5) Research at the University is defined as critical and creative activity undertaken on a systematic basis in order to extend knowledge and understanding and/or solve practical or theoretical problems.

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Section 3 - Policy Statement

(6) This statement has been prepared as a guide to authorising agents (clause 9), and to potential researchers, and with the aim of ensuring a consistent approach to approving research activity which includes enrolled students and/or University personnel as participants. The adoption of a consistent set of principles and procedures should ensure that:

  1. a uniform standard of protection is provided for all enrolled students and University personnel;
  2. decisions made by authorising agents 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 personnel is conducted in accordance with the codes of the institutions and/or organisations with which they are affiliated.

(7) These principles are intended as a basis for evaluating and providing approval for proposals to conduct research involving enrolled students and/or University personnel and are not intended as a code of ethics for researchers. Accordingly, they presume, but do not specifically address, the issue of ethical conduct in research, and do not attempt to cover all aspects of the research process. The University, along with most research institutions and organisations, has established codes of ethics and it is a requirement that researchers will conduct their research in accordance with the codes of the institutions and/or organisations with which they are affiliated and furnish evidence that ethical clearance has been granted by their institution or organisation.

(8) It is a requirement that prior to granting approval, all researchers be familiar with the Code of Conduct, Research Code of Practice, and Privacy Policy.

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Section 4 - Procedures

(9) Requests to include enrolled students and/or University personnel as participants in research will vary in scale and scope. The level at which research activity will be permitted is dependent, therefore, on the scale and scope of that activity. The Vice-Chancellor and President has delegated the approval of all research involving enrolled students and/or University personnel to authorising agents. They are:

  1. the Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Vice-President, Research, Engagement, Development and International,
  2. the Pro Vice-Chancellor, Research and Innovation,
  3. Deans or unit head.

(10) Approval by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Vice-President, Research, Engagement, Development and International is required when the research requires the University to allocate significant resources to support the research. Significant resources may include, but are not limited to: allocation of physical space, equipment, or technical support; organising forums or convening meetings of senior personnel; longitudinal studies; or any other significant impact on the time of enrolled students and University personnel. The ability of the University to support a research proposal requiring significant resources will be extremely limited.

(11) Approval by the Pro Vice-Chancellor, Research and Innovation is required when the research requires limited resources and participants are drawn from across Schools and/or Divisions.

(12) Approval by the appropriate Dean or unit head is required when the research requires limited resources and participants are drawn from within a single School or Unit.

(13) The authorising agents may wish, on occasion, to establish research advisory committees to provide advice on the appropriateness of research proposals, but final approval will be provided by the authorising agent identified in clause 9 (a)-(c) as appropriate.

(14) All research proposals, regardless of the level at which approval is sought, should satisfy the criteria for approving applications to conduct research (clauses 16-26). The authorising agents should permit only research proposals which satisfy these criteria. Researchers should provide copies of all of the appropriate documentation when seeking approval to conduct research (see Section 5).

(15) 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.

(16) When a proposal has been permitted, researchers will be provided with a letter of approval signed by the authorising agent (clause 9). The letter of approval will detail the provisions under which the approval is provided, for example, what the University is prepared to supply.

Part A - Anonymity and Confidentiality

(17) The anonymity of participants must be protected. Thus, for example, if the research is of a survey kind, the information should be collected anonymously. It should not be possible to link the information collected to individual participants. When this cannot be achieved, for example when information is being gathered by audiotape or videotape or identifying information is needed to track participants in longitudinal studies, the confidentiality of participants must be assured. That is, persons other than the researcher must not be able to link the information collected to individual participants.

(18) Researchers who wish to collect information which 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. Procedures for storing, accessing and disposing of data which enables participants to be identified, such as audiotapes and videotapes, need to be outlined. 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.

(19) In addition, only proposals which ensure the confidentiality of participating institutions and sections of institutions will normally be permitted. The authorising agent may agree to waive this condition, however, if it is considered appropriate to identify the University in the research findings.

Part B - Access to Information

(20) Enrolled students and/or University personnel have the right to determine whether information which can be linked to them personally is made available by other parties for research purposes. Accordingly, such information should not be sought from University personnel unless participants have given written consent for its release. (Written consent is required as University personnel will need to satisfy themselves that consent for release has been given.) Where it is intended to seek such information, this must be indicated clearly and unambiguously on consent forms.

(21) Researchers should note that the authorising agents identified in clause (9)a-c must be informed prior to commencement of the research if aggregated data identifying the University is to be reported.

Part C - Sensitivity

(22) The University has a responsibility to ensure that enrolled students and/or University personnel are treated with sensitivity and with due regard to their personal and private lives and their cultural, religious, and other beliefs. All researchers, therefore, have a responsibility to inform themselves of cultural, religious, and other such differences in the research population, and only those studies which are sensitive to and respect these differences will be permitted.

(23) The Code of Conduct is a guide to University employees, students, visitors, and contractors of the ethical standards that we expect to be upheld during engagement with the University. The University acknowledges that research is an endeavour that should remain relatively autonomous with the ideal of academic freedom providing the foundation for the pursuit of knowledge without undue interference. The University also 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. However, 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.

Part D - Minimisation of Risk or Harm

(24) The University has a duty to ensure that enrolled students and/or University personnel are protected at all times from physical, psychological and other forms of harm. Accordingly, research designs should not adversely affect participants' well-being. For example, adverse effects can result from:

  1. loss of privacy;
  2. harmful social, cultural, psychological or other consequences (eg. from the collection of information that may result in individuals becoming distressed or being 'labelled' or categorised in particular ways by their peers).

Part E - Prevention of Unnecessary Disruption

(25) The University has a responsibility to ensure that research activity does not impose an undue burden on enrolled students and University personnel. The potential contribution of the research should be of sufficient importance to warrant the involvement which participants will be asked to make. This means, of course, that the level of disruption which is considered acceptable will be dependent on the potential value of the research. Research that imposes unacceptable levels of disruption to the core functions of the University will not be permitted.

Part F - Methodological Adequacy

(26) The University has a responsibility to ensure that research methodologies are appropriate and capable of providing a valid assessment of educational processes and outcomes. The researcher has a responsibility to articulate and provide justification for the methodology, and to outline strategies employed to ensure methodological validity and reliability. The University reserves the right to withhold approval of studies which are considered to be methodologically inadequate.

Part G - Commercial Gain

(27) The University does not generally provide approval for research which is undertaken primarily for commercial or material gain.

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Section 5 - Guidelines

(28) When seeking approval to conduct research, researchers should submit sufficient evidence for the authorising agent to appropriately consider the application. As a general rule, documentation identified in clauses (28 - 34) would be sufficient.

Part H - Application to Conduct Research

(29) The attached Application to Conduct Research form contains the essential details of the proposal and the researcher(s). All researchers must complete and sign this form to acknowledge that the information supplied is correct, that they agree to conduct the research in accordance with the criteria for approving applications (clauses 17-27) and that they and their representatives will maintain the confidentiality of all information collected from participants.

(30) Address the application to the appropriate authorising agent (clause 9) at:

(31) Western Sydney University
Locked Bag 1797
Penrith South DC NSW 1797
Australia

Part I - Proposal Outline

(32) An outline of the research proposal should be provided. This should indicate:

  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. a time line for the research.

Part J - Letter to the Authorising Agent

(33) Approaches to the authorising agent (clause 9) seeking approval to approach enrolled students and/or University personnel must be accompanied by a letter outlining the nature of the research and the commitment required of University personnel. A copy of this letter must be included with the proposal.

Part K - Research Instruments

(34) The researcher need not submit copies of interview schedules, questionnaires or other data collection instruments (including tests or stimulus materials), however such instruments should be identified in the proposal.

Part L - Information and Consent Letter

(35) The researcher is required to provide a copy of the information letter for distribution to all participants Information/consent letters must satisfy requirements in accordance with the criteria for approving applications (clauses 17-27). Where researchers intend to collect information which enables participants to be identified by the researcher, the procedures for storing, accessing and disposing of data, as outlined in clause 18, should be described. Participants should also be provided with an opportunity to receive results of the research if they so wish.

Part M - Approval from a University's Ethics Committee

(36) It is expected that researchers will conduct their research in accordance with the codes of conduct applying in the institutions and/or organisations with which they are affiliated.

(37) The authorised agent within the University may consider the research proposal at the same time as the (host) university ethics committee or external agency is making its own assessment. But final approval will be withheld until notification of the approval of the (host) university ethics committee or external agency is supplied.