Ncls Research

Ethical Conduct of Research

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 Research says:
"Responsible research is encouraged and guided by the research culture of the organisation.  A strong research culture will demonstrate:
" 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.
Justice: The 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 their work.
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 ethical review.

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 mental illness,
  • 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 acceptable.

Please click the link below to download.


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