Any individual or organisation, such as a church, who wants to conduct human
research needs to ensure they do this responsibly and ethically.
Two useful documents are:
1. The Australian
Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research
2. The National
Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research
The introduction of The Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of
"Responsible research is encouraged and guided by the
research culture of the organisation. A strong research culture will
" honesty and integrity
" respect for human research
participants, animals and the environment
" good stewardship of public
resources used to conduct research
" appropriate acknowledgment of the role
of others in research
" responsible communication of research results."
(p1.3, 2007, Australian Government)
These are excellent guidelines for
any church organisation who wishes to survey their local community.
The National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research "sets national
standards for use by any individual, institution or organisation conducting
human research. This includes human research undertaken by governments,
industry, private individuals, organisations, or networks of organisations."
(p 7, 2007, Australian Government).
The National Statement highlights the values of research merit and integrity,
justice, beneficence and respect as important in the ethics of human research.
Research merit and integrity: The proposed research needs to have
merit, and the researchers need to have integrity to make the involvement of
human participants in the research ethically justifiable.
benefits of research need to be achieved through just means, distributed fairly,
and involve no unjust burdens.
Beneficence: Researchers exercise
beneficence in several ways: in assessing and taking account of the risks of
harm and the potential benefits of research to participants and to the wider
community; in being sensitive to the welfare and interests of people involved in
their research; and in reflecting on the social and cultural implications of
Respect: Respect for human beings is the common thread
underlying ethical considerations.
Risks must be justified by potential benefits.
The National Statement seeks to promote and maintain the high ethical
standards that Australia holds for human research. Risks to research
participants are ethically acceptable only if they are justified by the
potential benefits of the research.
'Negligible risk' research - in which there is no foreseeable risk of harm or
discomfort; and any foreseeable risk is no more than inconvenience - can be
exempted from ethical review. For research that carries only low risk - in which
the only foreseeable risk is one of discomfort - and does not fall under any of
the groups listed below, institutions may choose to establish other levels of
Research on the following groups requires ethical review:
- Women who are pregnant,
- People highly dependent on medical care who may be unable to give consent,
- People with a cognitive impairment, an intellectual disability, or a
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples,
- People who may be involved in illegal activities (see bolded paragraph on
page 79 of the National Statement for details).
If a church believes that their community survey research project is 'low
risk', rather than 'negligible risk' then they need to become familiar with the
requirements of the National Statement and ensure that the project is ethically