Research Ethics

Research Ethics

Ethics and ethical principles extend to all spheres of human activity.

They apply to our dealings with each other, with animals and the environment. Southern Cross University is committed to the ethical conduct of research and ensures that its researchers maintain the highest ethical standards in the conduct of research and teaching.

If you are an SCU staff member or student and applying for Ethics approval, you can access Research Ethics information, forms and resources via the Research Launchpad to assist you.

Please do not hesitate to contact the Ethics Office, should you require any support in the application process.

Human Research Ethics Human Research Ethics Low Risk Committee Animal Research Ethics Ethics Complaints

Human Research Ethics

The Southern Cross University Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC) acts on behalf of the Institution and has the primary responsibility to ensure that all Human Research is conducted in compliance with the National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research and to act regarding non-compliance where necessary.

Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC)

The Committee meets monthly and all applications assessed as being higher than low risk have to be reviewed by the full HREC at one of the Scheduled meetings.

See below for the HREC Terms of Reference and meeting dates:

Committee key contacts:

Chair: Professor Liz Mackinlay
e: [email protected]

Secretary: Ethics Officer
t: via Microsoft Teams (Wendy Britt)
e: [email protected] 

The Human Research Ethics Committee of Southern Cross University has been set up as an advisory committee to the Vice Chancellor. Membership of this Committee is voluntary and comprises:

Chair and University staff (Category A)
Professor Liz Mackinlay

Deputy Chair and University staff (Category A)
Associate Professor Matthew Leach

Laypersons not associated with the University (Category B)
Ian O'Reilly
Jafreen Khan

Persons with knowledge of, and current experience in, the professional care,
counselling or treatment of people (Category C)
Professor Stephen Myers
Rosalind Moxham

Persons who performs a pastoral care role in a community (Category D)
Dr Robert Lingard (Minister of Religion)
Dr Andrew Gall (Indigenous Representative)

Lawyer (Category E)
Dona Graham
David Heilpern

Researchers (Category F)
A/Prof Romy Lauche
Dr Lynne McPherson
A/Prof Gail Moloney
Dr Liz Reimer
Dr Aspa Baroutsis
Dr Alana Gall

Secretary and Administration
[email protected]

Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC) Membership

The Committee membership follows the guidelines set down by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) outlined in the Statement Paragraph 5.1.30 and comprises:

  • A Chair with suitable experience;
  • At least two lay people, one man and one woman, who have no affiliation with the University and do not currently engage in medical, scientific, legal or academic work;
  • At least one person with knowledge of, and current experience in, the professional care, counselling or treatment of people;
  • At least one person who performs a pastoral care role in a community;
  • At least one lawyer, where possible one who is not engaged to advise the University;
  • At least two people with current research experience relevant to research proposals considered by the SCU HREC.

Human Ethics Approval Processes

Southern Cross University has established ethical review processes for research conducted and led by SCU staff or students and the pathway depends on the level of risk your research carries to your participants.  In addition, SCU has a process of Minimisation of Duplication Ethical Review.

These processes are:

  1. Expedited Application Processes: Expedited reviews apply to low-risk research
  2. Minimisation of Duplication of Ethical Review: this relates to research which involves SCU staff or students as investigators but is being led by a non-SCU researcher and has been approved via an external Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC) Review process at another Institution. Minimisation applications must be submitted via IRMA and include supporting documents, e.g., ethics approval notification from the host institution and other documents relevant to the research (recruitment documents, questionnaires, Participant Information Sheet, etc.)

    If a SCU researcher and/or student has transferred from another Institution, the Minimisation of Duplication pathway may be used only if the original HREC will remain the lead institution with overall responsibility for the project. If the Principal investigator and other team members relocate to SCU, ethics approval from the original institution will likely cease and a new application will need to be submitted at SCU. SCU will accept the project via the Expedited review pathway provided that all the documentation approved by the original host institution is lodged with the Expedited application. As an example, the SCU HREC would require the application form and/or project protocol/description, recruiting materials and data collection tools. If amendments have been approved by the lead HREC, these should also be included.  New Participant Information Sheets and Consent Forms would need to be lodged using SCU’s templates.

  3. The HREC Review Process at a full HREC meeting is required for Moderate to High Risk Research. Currently, applications must firstly be created via the NHMRC’s HREA Form Portal and then submitted via SCU's online research management system ('IRMA') for review at the next available Southern Cross University HREC meeting.

Researchers should be guided by the National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research 2023, specifically the first two sections, to determine the level of risk involved in their research.

How to apply for Human Ethics Approval

For further information and resources to assist you in submitting a Human Research Ethics application, refer to the Human Ethics Research Launchpad page (login required).

Review Outcomes

The ethics office will communicate the HREC Chair and Committee outcomes, resulting in one of the following outcomes:

  1. Approved with standard conditions (Annual Reporting, Reporting of Changes of Protocol, Completion Reports and Adverse Events reports).
  2. Approved with more than standard conditions.
  3. The Committee has further questions you will need to respond to or re-submit parts of your application, e.g. your Participant Information Sheet.
  4. Not approvable in its present form, (You may be required to rework and resubmit the application.).

All Ethics applications are approved for three (3) years, with standard conditions or additional conditions as communicated by HREC.

If unsure, please always feel free to get in touch with the Ethics Office.

SCU staff and student research participants

Are you a researcher from an external institution requesting permission to recruit research participants who are staff or students at Southern Cross University?

If you do not have a Southern Cross University staff member or student as a co-investigator on your project, note that Ethics approval is not required. However, if you wish to recruit staff or students from Southern Cross University to participate in a research study, you are required to seek approval for this from the relevant Associate Dean Research or Executive Dean of the SCU Faculty or College, or the respective Head of Work Unit. Faculties will review applications on a case-by-case basis, and must be consulted for approval prior to any participant recruitment materials being circulated either digitally or on campus.

Human Research Ethics Low Risk Committee

A Low Risk Committee was established on 1 August 2023 to support best practice review and quality assurance of Low Risk Ethics applications at Southern Cross University. The Committee is responsible for ensuring all Low Risk applications meet the requirements of the National Statement on the Ethical Conduct in Human Research (2018; updated 2023). Low Risk applications are reviewed by the committee which meets once every two weeks, meaning all applications deemed Low Risk have a two-week turnaround timeline.  See below for the Low Risk Committee meeting dates:

The Low Risk Committee abides by the following Terms of Reference and Standard Operating Procedures:

The committee membership comprises staff representing all Faculties and Colleges at the University, with current members as follows:

Professor Liz Mackinlay

Chair - Health
Associate Professor Romy Lauche

Chair - Education, Business, Law and Arts, Science and Engineering,
SCU College, Gnibi College
Dr Georgina Dimopoulos

Reviewing member - Health
Dr Annabelle Keene
Dr Felicity Walker
Dr Joanne Bradbury
Ms Kate Giles

Reviewing member - Social Work
Associate Professor Kathomi Gatwiri

Reviewing member - SCU College
Dr Liz Goode

Reviewing member - Science and Engineering
Dr Marie-Chantale Pelletier

Reviewing member - Education
Dr Simone Blom

Animal Research Ethics

Animal Ethics Committee

The Southern Cross University Animal Ethics Committee (AEC) acts on behalf of the Institution and has the primary responsibility to ensure that care and animal use is conducted in compliance with the Code and act regarding non-compliance. Other responsibilities are outlined in the Code of Practice.

The Committee meets eight times per year to assess the scientific merit and ethical acceptability of new animal research proposals as well as review the continuation of currently approved activities. They operate under a Terms of Reference. All new applications must be considered at full AEC meetings.

All new applications must be considered at full AEC meetings.

Committee key contacts:

Interim Chair
Associate Professor Adam Hamlin

Research Ethics Officer
e: [email protected]

The Southern Cross University Animal Ethics Committee (AEC) was established as a legal requirement for conduct of research into animals under provisions of the NSW Animal Research Act 1985.

Any person wishing to undertake any form of research or teaching involving the use of all live non-human vertebrates, including abnormal husbandry or dietary conditions; collection of blood, tissue or other body samples; teaching; diagnoses; product testing; feeding trials and field surveys, must lodge an animal ethics application for consideration by the AEC and have an Animal Research Authority issued by the AEC before any research can commence.

Southern Cross University's AEC meets at Lismore Campus at least six times per year to consider the scientific merit and ethical acceptability of animal research proposals.

The Committee meets eight times per year to assess the scientific merit and ethical acceptability of new animal research proposals as well as review the continuation of currently approved activities.

All new applications must be considered at full AEC meetings. The Committee membership follows the legislation set by the Code and comprises of a Chair with suitable experience, and at least one person from each of four categories of membership:

  • Category A—a person with qualifications in veterinary science that are recognised for registration as a veterinary surgeon in Australia, and with experience relevant to the institution’s activities or the ability to acquire relevant knowledge.
  • Category B—a suitably qualified person with substantial and recent experience in the use of animals for scientific purposes relevant to the institution and the business of the AEC. This must include possession of a higher degree in research or equivalent experience. If the business of the AEC relates to the use of animals for teaching only, a teacher with substantial and recent experience may be appointed.
  • Category C—a person with demonstrable commitment to, and established experience in, furthering the welfare of animals, who is not employed by or otherwise associated with the institution, and who is not currently involved in the care and use of animals for scientific purposes. Veterinarians with specific animal welfare interest and experience may meet the requirements of this category. While not representing an animal welfare organisation, the person should, where possible, be selected on the basis of active membership of, and endorsement by, such an organisation.
  • Category D—a person not employed by or otherwise associated with the institution and who has never been involved in the use of animals in scientific or teaching activities, either in their employment or beyond their undergraduate education. Category D members should be viewed by the wider community as bringing a completely independent.

How to apply for Animal Ethics Approval

To apply for ethical clearance for animal research, refer to the Animal Ethics Research Launchpad page (login required).

Ethics Complaints

The University may receive complaints about researchers or the conduct of research, or about the conduct of the University's Human and Animal Research Ethics Committees (HREC and AEC). Complaints may be made by participants, researchers, staff of institutions, animal carers, students or members of the public. Be assured that all complaints will be handled with sensitivity and confidentiality.

Complaints regarding allegations of research misconduct are handled in accordance with the Southern Cross University Research Responsible Conduct Policy and the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research.

Please refer to the Research Ethics Complaints Guidelines and Flowchart for guidance on the complaints process. 

The Chairs of the Southern Cross University Human and Animal Ethics Committees act as advisors on research integrity and will investigate any complaints relating to the ethical review or ethical conduct of research. They can be contacted as follows:

Professor Liz Mackinlay
E: [email protected]

Interim Chair
Associate Professor Adam Hamlin

In the case of a complaint about the Research Ethics Committees contact:

Research Ethics Officer
Office of Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research)
Southern Cross University
PO Box 157
Lismore NSW 2480
e: [email protected]