Review of research merit

The National Statement on Ethics in Human Research (NS) requires the CSU HREC to consider the academic merit of the applications they review. This is because “unless proposed research has merit … the involvement of human participants in the research cannot be ethically justifiable” (NS, p. 9).

The CSU HREC members are not required by the NS, nor necessarily qualified, to assess the merit of each application. Instead, the HREC members rely on the applicants to provide evidence of the academic merit of the proposed research.

Question 1.12 in the HREA specifically asks if academic review has occurred; if you answer ‘no’ to this question your application will be returned except in exceptional circumstances.

Please consider how you will demonstrate that the academic merit of your proposed research has been verified by qualified experts (a person, or a process) from outside your research project team, noting that supervisors of student research are part of the research team.

Please use the text box below Q1.12 on the HREA to provide the evidence of your selection of Yes.

The form of verification of academic merit is your choice, and will depend on the context of your research. Researchers have generally demonstrated the academic merit of their research by:

  • Indicating that the research proposal of a student researcher has been through School or Faculty review process. This may include seminars, or review by a course co-ordinator, or other quality review process.
  • Indicating that the research is funded through a process of competitive review.
  • Demonstrating that the research approach exactly or closely follows an approach published in a peer reviewed journal. (In this case, please provide the journal reference.)
  • Asking a qualified and or experienced academic to review the research and confirm the academic merit of the research. In this case follow the general approach described below

Evaluation of the scientific/academic merit of a research project

To be completed prior to submission of a project for ethical review

Instructions to researchers:

  • Identify an individual or group with the relevant discipline or topic knowledge and expertise to review the scientific/academic merit of your project.
  • The material on which the evaluator/s bases their review should be determined by you and the evaluator/s. (The reviewer may decide that the project description that needs to accompany your HREA application will be sufficient for this purpose.) Provide the evaluator(s) with the instructions provided below.
  • Attach the  evaluation report at the end of your Project Description, and include it  with your HREA and other paperwork for the HREC.

Instructions to evaluators:

  • Your evaluation must be informed by the following information from the National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research.
  • Please address all points in your evaluation report, paying particular attention to those marked * which require judgements drawing on discipline- or topic-specific knowledge.
  • There is no prescribed format or length for evaluations. As per the NHMRC, your evaluation should be “robust, formal and independent of the researcher and research proponents, including any sponsors of the research” (HREA website).

Research merit and integrity

1.1 Research that has merit is:

(a) Justifiable by its potential benefit, which may include its contribution to knowledge and understanding, to improved social welfare and individual wellbeing, and to the skill and expertise of researchers. What constitutes potential benefit and whether it justifies research may sometimes require consultation with the relevant communities;

*(b) Designed or developed using methods appropriate for achieving the aims of the proposal;

*(c) Based on a thorough study of the current literature, as well as previous studies. This does not exclude the possibility of novel research for which there is little or no literature available, or research requiring a quick response to an unforeseen situation;

(d) Designed to ensure that respect for the participants is not compromised by the aims of the research, by the way it is carried out, or by the results;

*(e) Conducted or supervised by persons or teams with experience, qualifications and competence that are appropriate for the research; and

*(f) Conducted using facilities and resources appropriate for the research.

(National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research)