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The Aboriginal Health Research Ethics Committee (AHREC) promotes and supports quality research that will benefit Aboriginal people.
The Committee was established in 1986 following concerns by the then Aboriginal Health Organisation of South Australia about the increasing volume of research being conducted in Aboriginal communities in South Australia.
AHREC’s objectives are to monitor and coordinate medical and health research in Aboriginal communities in South Australia, to offer advice to communities on the ethics, methodology and potential benefits of research and to review the research needs of Aboriginal communities in order to determine priorities for research.
Proposals to conduct health-related research involving Aboriginal people or communities in South Australia need to be submitted to AHREC – even if approval has been or will be obtained from the researcher’s institution or SA Health.
AHREC is guided by the principles set out in the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) ‘National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research’ 2007 (updated May 2015) (the National Statement).
All human research must comply with the:
AHREC also takes into account the following companion documents and guidelines during ethical review:
It is also recommended for researchers to review the following information:
SCOPE OF REVIEW
If you are unsure whether you are required to submit an application to AHREC or not, please review AHREC’s application form first, and submit a synopsis including the scope, methods, target group, risks, form of data accessed/collected, intended analysis (e.g. total sample level vs. by Aboriginality) and any other information you may deem necessary for a preliminary assessment to Gokhan.Ayturk@ahcsa.org.au . Any calls regarding whether you need to submit an application or not will be referred back to this instruction. AHREC’s scope of review is as follows:
Aboriginal health means not just the physical well-being of an individual but refers to the social, emotional and cultural well-being of the whole Community in which each individual is able to achieve their full potential as a human being thereby bringing about the total well-being of their Community. It is a whole of life view and includes the cyclical concept of life-death-life.
If a researcher is seeking advice regarding whether they need to submit or not, they need to present their arguments and justify why the study may not require AHREC’s review. The final decision regarding whether a study/project also requires AHREC’s approval is determined on a case-by-case depending on all of the study characteristics requested above.
AHREC’s STANDARD OF REVIEW
AHREC is guided by the AHCSA Constitution and operates in accordance with the NHMRC National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research and other relevant federal and state legislation and regulations. The Committee reviews studies also with respect to Guidelines for Ethical Conduct in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Research, the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research 2007 and the South Australian Aboriginal Health Research Accord. AHREC’s deliberations take into account AHCSA’s priorities and commitment to develop and assess culturally appropriate methods of research for the benefit of the South Australian Aboriginal Community.
All research submitted to AHREC must place the needs, priorities and well-being of the South Australian Aboriginal Community before the needs of the study and present a partnership approach at all phases with a feasible knowledge translation strategy involving relevant Aboriginal organisations.
All research submitted to AHREC must meet with good research practice and present a rigorous methodology in terms of quantitative representativeness and qualitative data saturation. The methodology should be designed to adequately answer the study’s research questions and achieve meaningful research outcomes for the South Australian Aboriginal Community.
If an application does not meet the requisite research and ethical standards (i.e. inadequate sample size, community consultation, governance structure, lack of understanding of research methods, inability to articulate or respond to the Committee’s concerns), it is at AHREC’s discretion to not further review the study, advise its re-submission at least 3 months after the initial review or progression without the Aboriginal component.
In view of the above, in order to ensure that student applicants are properly and adequately supervised, and, the students’ well-being is protected, the Committee requires supervisors of all students wishing to conduct research in the Aboriginal health sector to thoroughly assess the feasibility of achieving the scope with respect to the student’s timeframes, capabilities and academic level. All applicants, regardless of their academic or professional level, must be aware of the ethical and research standards they need to meet.
If the Committee assesses that a submission by a student or any researcher is sub-standard and under- or inadequately-supervised (e.g. there is a significant room for improvement in all aspects of the application), it may refer the student or the researcher to their research office and/or other relevant parties for support and review of guidelines ahead of any further correspondence with the Committee. AHREC will not be a substitute to researchers’ and supervisors’ accountability with regards to the articulation and interpretation of the ethical guidelines and academic standards, and, will notify the relevant parities where required e.g. other HRECs, Head of School, Vice-Chancellor etc.
AHREC requires supervisors of students to directly engage with the Committee in place of and for students with due diligence regarding AHREC’s scope and standard of review as well as the procedures/instructions below. Students are advised to ensure supervisors’ inclusion of any and all engagement with AHREC.
Due to prior experience and in order to ensure that potential applicants will not end up taking AHREC’s or other Aboriginal stakeholders’ or families’ time excessively, the Committee strongly urges supervisors and study teams to thoroughly and objectively assess their timeframes, capabilities and academic level ahead of any correspondence with the Committee. The relevant guidelines and expected standards to explore challenges and contribute to solutions in the Aboriginal health sector require a high level of scientific rigour, cultural understanding and stakeholder engagement with an aim to yield direct benefit for the community.
All researchers are required to submit electronic versions AND paper-based copies of their ethics application as follows:
In short, what you need to submit for ethical review is a single merged and editable PDF document via email, and, 15 hard copies. The study protocol should not be a part of the merged PDF or hard copies, but submitted as a separate attachment via email.
1) Merged and Editable PDF File that is signed (can be a digital signature) and includes all associated attachments. Please consult with your IT Department regarding how to merge all files into a single PDF document before submission in the order you wish to present. This is the document that is kept for the database for future reference and has to be searchable. If the size of the document is over 20mb, you may submit it via a secure Dropbox link. This merged PDF document:
a) must mirror the order of documents provided in hard copies (e.g. cover letter on top, followed by the application form, PIS/Consent form etc). Because some of the AHREC members prefer to work with only digital files and what they receive need to match with the hard copies.
b) must be editable (i.e. not locked, not password protected, not submitted as a jpeg file, not be the scanned version of a hard copy set). This is to enable members to do be able to do the review on the merged PDF file itself. If the researcher can’t submit a merged PDF copy utilising a software, they are required to also submit the Word version of all files. The word version of all files is not required if an editable PDF is submitted.
2. A total of 15 hard copies of the application (Please see below, do not attach the study protocol to hard copies). These are the sets that are forwarded to AHREC members as received, please ensure that all sets are identical and all attachments are presented in the order you wish for AHREC to review.
DO NOT attach the study protocol to the MERGED PDF or hard copies. Please email a copy of the protocol as a separate attachment. The Committee advises that researchers should include all details necessary for review on the application form and attachments. AHREC meetings run at capacity and the Committee will not cross-reference details included in the application form vs the study protocol. Please ensure that your AHREC application is not a simple copy-paste exercise and that most critical information is included and that you respond to questions directly. For example, please do not leave the table/list of variables you wish to access in a data linkage study, an interview schedule in a qualitative study, or the survey itself in a quantitative study back in the protocol. These and such other information that can be deemed critical, should be included in the application form or as attachments.
Dr Gokhan Ayturk
Senior Research and Ethics Officer, AHCSA
Executive Officer, AHREC
GPO Box 719, Adelaide SA 5001
Submission address: Gokhan.Ayturk@ahcsa.org.au
AHREC Meeting Dates – 2019
*** The Aboriginal Health Research Ethics Committee and its Secretariat will be unavailable from 10 December 2018 until 25 January 2019. Where possible, all efforts are always made to facilitate researchers’ timeframes, however please note our courtesy advice that over the holiday season and until 25 January 2019, the Committee and its Secretariat is not accessible. Please rest assured that we will respond to all AHREC related queries after our return and your submission will be included in the agenda of the AHREC meeting scheduled for 7 February 2019. You do not need to seek further action or assurance.
During this time if you are planning to submit a new proposal, or have submitted a response, modification, annual report or final report, please be advised of the requirement to submit your correspondence as per instructions above. If you are unsure regarding any matter, process or question in the application form, please refer to the instructions and ethical guidelines, and choose the most plausible option. Minor errors in how questions are interpreted in the application form may be possible to correct retrospectively if the study meets with AHREC’s overall support.
If this is your first time engaging with AHREC, please pay close attention to AHREC’s standard of review and scope of review; and expect a vigorous review of risk vs benefit, scientific validity, cultural appropriateness, Aboriginal governance and consultation.
The AHREC monitors all the research projects that it has approved. It important to the Committee that people participating in approved projects have an independent and confidential reporting mechanism which they can use if they have any worries or complaints about that research.
If you have questions or problems associated with the practical aspects of your participation in a research project, or wish to raise a concern or complaint, then you should consult the project coordinator whose details are on the project’s Information Sheet.
If you wish to discuss matters with an independent person, including complaint and concerns as a researcher, you can also contact the Senior Research and Ethics Officer at Gokhan.Ayturk@ahcsa.org.au
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Throughout the website the term Aboriginal is used in this context to include people who identify as Aboriginal, people who identify as Torres Strait Islander Peoples and people who identify as both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander. It is also used interchangeably with the term Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander.