Human research ethics

Human research is conducted with/or about people, their biological materials, and/or data (information) about them. It therefore includes a broad range of activities.

In order to conduct research with or about people or their data or tissue, a project must have received prior approval from a Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC). Please contact the Ethics, Integrity and Biosafety team if you are not sure if your research requires ethics approval from the La Trobe University Human Research Ethics Committee, or for any other human ethics queries at:

  • +61 3 9479 1443
  • Join us for weekly zoom drop-in sessions, every Monday from 12-1pm followed by a 'how to prepare an ethics application' training session from 1-2pm Link:
  • schedule a personalised session for help with your ethics queries, if required

Getting your project approved

New Human Research Ethics application process

All new Human Research ethics applications and any application must be submitted to PRIME using the following process:

  1. Complete the relevant forms:
  2. Log in to  PRIME Researcher portal to create a new Human Ethics Application:
    1. Under Ethics Applications, click “+ New Human Ethics Application”
    2. Add all researcher personnel
    3. Upload all completed forms and study documentation (as separate documents)
    4. Click on “Submit to Research Office” by the relevant closing date (see below)

If you would like us to pre-review your application, please submit your application using the above process by the advertised pre-review cut-off dates.

To help with training and feedback please see below:

  1. Training opportunities:
    • Schedule a personalised session for help with your ethics queries or with PRIME.
    • Attend our weekly drop in sessions for assistance, every Monday at 12 midday
  2. If you would like to book a time to discuss your needs and preferred option/s please contact the Ethics, Integrity and Biosafety Team:
Contact the Ethics team

For any questions or concerns, please contact Human Ethics or +61 3 9479 1443

Time to approval

Ethics process

This table shows the average time to approval (calendar days) for projects submitted to each of the Human Ethics committees.

Human Research Ethics Committees 33 days / 156 projects 25 days / 133 projects 24 days / 176 projects
Community of Practice Low Risk  28 days / 298 projects 9.6 days / 223 projects 19 days / 216 projects

Meeting closing dates - all committees

*Please note if there is a high volume of applications for any given meeting, the application may be allocated to the following meeting date.

2023 Human research new & deferred ethics applications - pre-review, closing and meeting dates
Pre-review cut-off (voluntary)Application deadlineCommittee meeting
Midday Monday 9 October 2023Midday Friday 13 October 2023Thursday 2 November 2023
Midday Monday 23 October 2023Midday Friday 27 October 2023Thursday 16 November 2023
Midday Friday 3 November 2023Midday Friday 10 November 2023Thursday 30 November 2023
Midday Monday 20 November 2023Midday Friday 24 November 2023Thursday 14 December 2023
2024 Human research new & deferred ethics applications - pre-review, closing and meeting dates
Pre-review cut-off (voluntary)Application deadlineCommittee meeting
Midday Monday, 08 January 2024Midday Friday, 12 January 2024Thursday, 1 February 2024
Midday Monday, 29 January 2024Midday Friday, 2 February 2024Thursday, 22 February 2024
Midday Monday, 12 February 2024Midday Friday, 16 February 2024Thursday, 7 March 2024
Midday Monday, 26 February 2024Midday Friday, 1 March 2024Thursday, 21 March 2024
Midday Monday, 11 March 2024Midday Friday, 15 March 2024Thursday, 4 April 2024
Midday Friday, 22 March 2024Midday Wednesday, 27 March 2024Thursday, 18 April 2024
Midday Monday, 8 April 2024Midday Friday, 12 April 2024Thursday, 2 May 2024
Midday Monday, 29 April 2024Midday Friday, 3 May 2024Thursday, 23 May 2024
Midday Monday, 13 May 2024Midday Friday, 17 May 2024Thursday, 6 June 2024
Midday Monday, 27 May 2024Midday Friday, 31 May 2024Thursday, 20 June 2024
Midday Friday, 7 June 2024Midday Friday, 14 June 2024Thursday, 4 July 2024
Midday Monday, 24 June 2024Midday Friday, 28 June 2024Thursday, 18 July 2024
Midday Monday, 8 July 2024Midday Friday, 12 July 2024Thursday, 1 August 2024
Midday Monday, 29 July 2024Midday Friday, 2 August 2024Thursday, 22 August 2024
Midday Monday, 12 August 2024Midday Friday, 16 August 2024Thursday, 5 September 2024
Midday Monday, 26 August 2024Midday Friday, 30 August 2024Thursday, 19 September 2024
Midday Monday, 9 September 2024Midday Friday, 13 September 2024Thursday, 3 October 2024
Midday Monday, 23 September 2024Midday Thursday, 26 September 2024Thursday, 17 October 2024
Midday Monday, 14 October 2024Midday Friday, 18 October 2024Thursday, 7 November 2024
Midday Monday, 28 October 2024Midday Friday, 1 November 2024Thursday, 21 November 2024
Midday Monday, 11 November 2024Midday Friday, 15 November 2024Thursday, 5 December 2024
Midday Monday, 25 November 2024Midday Friday, 29 November 2024Thursday, 19 December 2024
Human research subject to & post-approval requests:

Last meeting for 2023 is Tuesday 12 December 2023. The first meeting in 2024 will be Tuesday 16 January 2024 and then going forward every Tuesday.

Closing DateMeeting Date
Midday Thursday - every weekTuesday the following week

How to apply - research approved by an external HREC

This process is used when La Trobe University staff and students receive ethics approval from another NHMRC registered Human Research Ethics Committee.

With the release of PRIME, all new externally approved applications must be submitted using the following process:

  1. Complete the relevant forms:
    • Download the Externally Approved or Request to Transfer Application Form (DOC 57KB).
    • Prepare a copy of the approved ethics application and all support documents submitted to the external HREC, ensuring that the title of the study on the application form matches the one in the request email.
    • Prepare a copy of the final approval letter from the external HREC, with all conditions of approval included.
  2. Log in to  PRIME Researcher portal to create a new Externally Approved Application:
    1. Under Ethics Applications, click “+ New Externally Approved Application”
    2. Add all researcher personnel
    3. Upload all completed forms and study documentation (as separate documents)
    4. Click on “Submit to Research Office” by the relevant closing date (see below)

Please refer to below guidelines to help you with the preparation of the application.

Complaints and feedback

For concerns about:

  1. an approved project
  2. the conduct of a researcher
  3. the conduct of the Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC) or Low Risk sub-committees
  4. or wish to provide feedback

Please contact the Senior Manager Ethics, Integrity and Biosafety

T: +61 3 9479 1443


Legislation, codes and guidelines

Research Integrity

Ethical Conduct in Human Research

Privacy and Data Protection

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders: Guidelines and Protocols

Autism Spectrum Research

Clinical Trials

Quality Assurance

Research Involving Children


Current HREC membership

NameNHMRC Membership Category
Professor David FinlayChair

Expression of interest - Human Research Ethics Committee Member

Both of the La Trobe University Human Research Ethics Committees (HREC) and Community of Practice Low Risk Sub-committee (COP) are seeking expressions of interest from suitably qualified people.

In accordance with the National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research 2007 (updated 2018) (the National Statement), and excluding the Chair, the membership of the HRECs consist of the following categories:

  1. lay people who have no affiliation with the institution and who do not currently engage in medical, scientific, legal or academic work;
  2. people with knowledge of, and current experience in, the professional care, counselling or treatment of people; for example, an allied health professional;
  3. people who perform a pastoral care role in the community;
  4. lawyer, where possible one who is not engaged to advise the institution; and
  5. people with current human research experience that is relevant to La Trobe University.

The Human Research Ethics Committees are seeking expressions of interest for categories 1, 2, 3 and 5.

The Community of Practice Low Risk Sub-committee is currently seeking expressions of interest from category 5, La Trobe University employed members.

In these positions you will be required to:

  • Attend at least half of the scheduled meetings in the calendar year.  HREC meetings are a hybrid model where members can attend in person or virtually via Zoom.  COP meetings are only virtual via Zoom.
  • Review applications and make recommendations regarding the ethical acceptability of projects being undertaken by La Trobe University researchers and students.
  • Ensure that any comments submitted about a project align with the National Statement and other relevant guidelines and regulations.
  • Maintain confidentiality of the committee’s proceedings. All members are required to sign a Confidentiality Agreement prior to commencement of duties for the committee.

Benefits include:

  • Continuing professional development
  • The opportunity to contribute to raising the research profile of La Trobe University

Modifying an approved project

Modifying an approved project

If you intend to modify your project you will be required to submit a modification request form. This can include, but is not limited to, changes to the following:

  1. Recruitment, methodology and/or funding
  2. Participant information statement and/or consent form/s (PICF)
  3. Advertisements
  4. Approval time period, i.e., if your ethics approval is due to expire and you require an extension

How do I submit a modification request?

  1. Complete Modification Form [DOC 61KB]
  2. Prepare a tracked and clean copy of all updated documents
  3. Log in to  PRIME Researcher portal to create a new modification request:
    1. To find your ethics project click on “My Ethics Approvals” tile and select the Ethics Approval Number you wish to modify
    2. At the top of the screen the “down” arrow and click “Create Modification”
    3. Upload completed modification form and updated documentation (including tracked and clean copies)
    4. In the progress bar at the top of the page, select "Review by Research Office" and then click "Mark as Current Status" to the right

Annual Final and Safety Reports

Annual, Final reports and Clinical Trial Annual or Final Safety Report

  1. For all Human Research projects (excluding clinical trials) download and complete the annual/final report [DOC 61KB] (last updated 12.09.2022) 
  2. A combined Annual Progress and Safety Report must be submitted for all active clinical trials each year and should include a list of any Adverse Events occurring during the reporting period (if applicable).  Please use this form to also submit your Final Report.
  3. For all Clinical Trials download and complete the Clinical Trial Annual Progress Safety Final Report [DOC 55KB]

    La Trobe University’s Human Research Ethics Committees have the discretion to request more frequent reporting of clinical trials.

If La Trobe is not the lead HREC, please submit your Annual Progress Report and Annual Safety Report as per their requirements and provide a copy of the approved report to La Trobe via

3. Log in to  PRIME Researcher portal to lodge an annual of final report:

  1. To find your ethics project click on “My Ethics Approvals” tile and select the Ethics Approval Number you wish to submit an annual or final report for
  2. At the top of the ethics record, click the “down” blue arrow drop down menu and click “Create Annual Report” or “Create Final Report”
  3. Click the 'post approval documents' tab and upload completed annual/final report form
  4. At the top of the screen click on  "Submit to Research Office"

Incident, Safety and Breaches of GCP Reporting

La Trobe University's Incident and Safety monitoring reporting requirements:

1. Human research projects (excluding Clinical Trials)

2. Clinical Trials

The NHMRC’s Safety monitoring and reporting in clinical trials involving therapeutic goods (2016) sets out the requirements for the monitoring, collection and reporting of adverse events and adverse reactions that occur in clinical trials.

The Clinical Trial Safety Reporting Flowchart and Glossary of Terms has been developed as a valuable tool to assist you in determining which report is required, to whom it should be reported and the timelines for doing so.

  • To report a safety issue (e.g. serious adverse event/reaction/effect or significant safety issue), complete and submit the Safety Report - Clinical Trial v3 [DOC 70KB].   Please note: You are no longer required to individually report Adverse Events as they occur if not serious (i.e. non-serious incidents that are not related to the trial) to the HREC.  Please retain adequate records and include these Adverse Events in your Annual Safety Report to La Trobe University.
  • To report a Serious or Suspected or Non-Serious Breach as a requirement of ICH E6 (R2) Good Clinical Practice or the clinical trial protocol, complete and submit the Breach of Good Clinical Practice Protocol Report - Clinical Trial v3 [DOC 56KB]

3. Log in to PRIME Researcher portal to lodge an Incident/Safety/Breach of GCP Reports:

  1. To find your ethics project click on “My Ethics Approvals” tile and select the Ethics Approval Number you wish to submit a Safety Report/Incident,
  2. At the top of the ethics record click the “down” arrow and click “Create UAE/Safety Report”.
  3. Upload completed Report.
  4. In the progress bar at the top of the page, select "Review by Research Office" and then click "Mark as Current Status" to the right.

FAQs and Guidance

COVID-19 FAQs and Guidance

COVID-19 Guidelines for human research

The University will continue to function under its COVID-safe plan in 2023 as this remains a Victorian Government requirement for all businesses. Safety Risk Assessments (SRAs) will be used to assess and manage COVID-19 risk but will only be needed for heightened exposure risk.  COVID-19 specific SRAs are required when research includes vulnerable groups such as:

  • those who are unvaccinated and/or immunocompromised;
  • situations of heightened exposure, such as working with COVID infected participants; or
  • working in remote locations without access to adequate health care.

If required, please submit a completed SRA with your ethics application. Please go to COVID-Safe information and Safety Risk Assessments to determine all University requirements applicable to your research.

Health and Safety Business Partners continue to be available to provide additional guidance and practical advice, if required.

Fieldwork Safety Risk Assessment

Please go to risk assessment to determine the University's current human fieldwork research safety assessment requirements that may be applicable to your research. If a fieldwork safety assessment is required, please include a copy of the completed safety assessment with your ethics application.

Zoom vs MS Teams for data collection

The advice from La Trobe Information Services is that Zoom can be used for non-confidential matters (including research). However, anything that is highly confidential should be conducted via Microsoft Teams. Tips on how to increase security using Zoom can be found at on the La Trobe Information Services website.

To use Microsoft Teams the recipient must have an Office 365 account (this account doesn’t have to be a La Trobe Office 365 account for it to work). This means some research participants won’t be able to log in via Teams if they do not have a 365 account. The Human Research Ethics Committee will take this into consideration in addition to the highly confidential nature of the research interview when reviewing projects.

Cisco Webex is also another secure option. This can be used by people external to La Trobe University without any sign in, however, your research participants will need to download the Cisco app.


To replace paper Participant Information Statement and Consent Forms with Electronic informed consent (eConsent), eConsent must provide the same information, but in an electronic format.  It is important to note that eConsent does not replace the important discussion between the participant and research team about the nature of the project and what the participant will be asked to do and why.

eConsent can be implemented by La Trobe research staff and students in the following ways (please note this advice was based on TransCelerate eConsent guidelines):

  1. Use of REDCap (contact ; AND
  2. Telephone/Video Call; OR
  3. Use videos and/or Audio over your PICF (see TransCelerate eConsent guidelines)

Good clinical practice (GCP) training and Australian Clinical Trials Education Centre (A-CTEC)

Good Clinical Practice (GCP) is an international ethical and scientific quality standard for designing, conducting, recording and reporting of clinical trials that involve human participants. It is recommended that anyone involved in the conduct of research involving human participants consider completing this training. It is essential for researchers involved in clinical trials.

Researchers can undertake GCP training that meets the minimum requirements for ICH GCP E6 R2 and is recognised by TransCelerate Biopharma Inc. via the following options:

  1. La Trobe University, through the Clinical Trials Platform is offering face to face, introduction and refresher GCP training for all La Trobe researchers, students and staff. This is a TransCelerate Biopharma Inc. recognised training course and a certificate valid for 3 years will be issued upon successful completion of the course.
  2. The Australian Clinical Trials Education Centre (A-CTEC, formally V-CTEC) offers a free 'Trials Essentials for Investigators' online course that meets the minimum requirements for ICH GCP E6 R2 training and is recognised by TransCelerate Biopharma Inc.  You will need to register as a La Trobe University staff or student member to complete this self-paced comprehensive 5 module introductory course.  A certificate will be issued following satisfactory completion. More details can be found at A-CTEC: Comprehensive Course Packages (
  3. NIDA Clinical Trials Network offers a free online GCP course conducted by the NIDA Clinical Trials Network (part of the National Institutes of Health in the US) that is TransCelerate Biopharma Inc. recognised. This is a 12 module self-paced course that should take 6 hours to complete.  Upon receiving at least 80% pass rate for all the exams a certificate of completion can be obtained.  Please use the link above to access the course.
  4. The Global Health Network ICH Good Clinical Practice E6 (R2) * Global Health Training Centre ( offers free online ICH GCP E6 R2 training for site investigators that is TransCelerate Biopharma Inc. recognised.  This training will take up to 1 hour to complete and you will need to register beforehand.  A pass rate of 80% in the online exam is required to successfully complete the course and request the free certificate of completion.
GCP Refresher

Once GCP training certification has expired, a refresher course will be required.  GCP Refresher courses on offer are available through:

  1. La Trobe University will be offering through the Clinical Trials Platform face-to-face GCP refresher training courses for all La Trobe researchers, students and staff.  This is a TransCelerate Biopharma Inc. recognised training course and a certificate valid for 3 years will be issued upon successful completion of the course.
  2. Monash Partners offer a GCP refresher course that is free for all La Trobe staff, researchers and students.

Additional training opportunities through A-CTEC

The Australian Clinical Trials Education Centre (A-CTEC) hosts a suite of evidence-based, interactive clinical trials education opportunities. It is highly recommended for all La Trobe staff and students, is free of charge and includes:

Participant Reimbursement

Ethics FAQs and Guidance

Do I need human research ethics approval?

All La Trobe staff and research students who conduct research projects will require human research ethics approval if they intend to conduct research or research activities involving the following:

  • engagement with human participants;
  • collection and/or use of previously collected human biological material (e.g. obtained from person including tissue, blood, urine, sputum and any derivative from these including cell lines. This does not include non-human biological material such as micro-organisms that live on or in a person;
  • artefacts or archival material;

Irrespective of the level of risk of the activity, researchers must have human research ethics approval in place prior to commencement of research (National Statement, Chapters 4 and 5).

Types of activities that may not require ethics approval

Conducting quality assurance (QA) and evaluation activities does not required human research ethics approval even when such activities may utilise research methodologies. An activity where the primary purposes is to monitor or improve the quality of service delivered by an individual or an organisation (e.g. to improve the quality of a teaching program or instructional method) is a QA activity. Evaluation is used to make judgements, usually about the effectiveness, efficiency and/or appropriateness of an activity. In cases where a QA or evaluation activity forms part of or transforms into research, a human research ethics approval must be acquired.

Regardless of whether an activity is research, QA or evaluation, all participants involved in the activity should receive optimal care and any potential risks, burden, inconvenience or possible breach of their privacy must be carefully considered and addressed.

If you are unsure whether or not ethics approval is needed, please contact Human Ethics.

How to determine the level of risk in my research project?

How to determine risk?

Risk is determined by reviewing the potential for harm and the steps you have put in place to mitigate its impact, ensuring the safety of:

  1. Participants (e.g. risk of study procedures such as ionizing radiation, biospecimen collection, drugs/devices, psychological risk, cultural risks);
  2. Researchers (e.g. safety to researchers such as wearing personal protective wear, vicarious trauma and safety when conducting research activities at home or in public spaces) and;
  3. University (e.g. financial and reputational)

The level of risk of a research project and the risk mitigation strategies should be outlined in the project description using the guidance provided in the (National Statement, Chapter 2.1).  Please consider the kinds of harm, discomfort or inconvenience that may occur, the likelihood of them occurring, and the severity and consequences of them.

  • Harms can be:
    • physical, such as pain or injury.
    • psychological, like distress.  Distress can be defined as something that endures great mental or physical suffering, like extreme anxiety, sadness, pain or being in danger.  Research that seeks sensitive or embarrassing personal information such as recalling domestic or sexual abuse, or suicidal thoughts have the potential to trigger distress.
    • social such as damage to social networks or relationships.
    • economic such as direct or indirect costs for participants.
    • legal such as the discovery and prosecution of criminal conduct.
    • reputational harms are factors that change a participant's reputation.
  • Discomfort is physical and/or psychological and is the negative accompaniment or effect of research, less serious than harm that involves the body and/or mind, such as anxiety induced by interview/survey questions.
  • Inconvenience is where the only foreseeable risk is one of inconvenience, such as completing a non-identifiable online survey where no sensitive or personal questions are asked.

The information provided in your application form and project description is used to assess the level of risk and will ultimately determine which Committee reviews your project.

  • Above low risk research:  Research that has the foreseeable risk of harm like distress is considered 'above low risk' and needs to be reviewed by one of the University's Human Research Ethics Committees.
  • Low risk research:  Research where the only foreseeable risk is one of discomfort or inconvenience is considered ' low risk' and will be reviewed by the Community of Practice Low Risk Human Research Ethics Committee.

Please contact the Human Ethics team if you need further advice assessing your project's level of risk.

What are the review pathways for negligible risk, low risk and abow low risk human research?

In accordance with the National Statement (sections 5.1.18 - 5.1.21), La Trobe has established two review pathways, one for negligible or low risk, the other for above low risk research. Closing dates, applications forms, project documentation (e.g. advertisement, Participant Information & Consent forms, study tools) and level of detail remain the same. The only difference between the pathways is the committee who review the application. At time of submission, you can indicate which pathway you think is most appropriate, however, the level of risk will be judged by the Human Research Ethics Office in conjunction with the Chair of the committee, and downgraded/upgraded as deemed appropriate in accordance with the National Statement. At all stages, we will communicate with you, which committee will be reviewing your application and the date you can expect to hear an outcome.

The pathways and committees review are as follows:

How long do I have to wait to receive ethics approval?

We will aim for all projects to obtain ethics approval within 30 business days of the closing date. Business days are calculated as the number of days between the advertised closing date to the day the Principal Investigator (PI) is sent the letter detailing the outcome of the ethics review. The outcome may involve clarification sought and/or required revisions and the clock commences again once the PI submits their response addressing the committee review outcomes.

When can I commence my research?

You cannot commence your project (i.e. recruitment and data collection) until you have received written approval from the Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC) or the Community of Practice Low Risk Ethics Committee.
Consultation and literature reviews to determine the scope and design of your project should occur prior to applying for ethics approval.

If your project requires approval from another jurisdiction (e.g. hospital, school, department of defence, etc) please following the information under 'I have received ethics approval from another external organisation do I still need La Trobe ethics approval?'.

If your project involves overseas fieldwork, researchers must obtain ethics from La Trobe University and demonstrate that they comply with any of the following:

I have received ethics approval from an external organisation. Do I still need La Trobe ethics approval?

La Trobe has adopted the recommendation of the National Statement (Chapter 5.3) to minimise the duplication of ethical review and therefore recognises approval issued by other NHMRC-registered HRECs and their delegated negligible and/or low-risk review bodies. This means that La Trobe staff and students undertaking research do not need to seek ethical review by the La Trobe HRECs or its Community of Practice Low Risk Ethics Committee if their project has been approved by another NHMRC-registered HREC or their delegated negligible and/or low-risk review bodies. However, to ensure appropriate governance and insurance coverage, any projects involving La Trobe staff and research students must be registered via the externally approved projects pathway.  If you plan to conduct your research in the Prison system, ethics approval will be required from the Justice Department's HREC and once obtained submitted through the externally approved projects pathway at La Trobe University.

In some cases, you may need to seek multiple approvals from HRECs. An example includes conducting research in Schools in Victoria, where ethics approval must be granted by RISEC or by the Department of Education in other states. Often this can be done in parallel but enquire first whether La Trobe HREC approval is required prior to submitting an application.  Please contact Human Ethics or call +61 3 9479 1443 to discuss.

Can I receive retrospective approval?

La Trobe HRECs and the Community of Practice Low Risk Ethics Committee do not provide retrospective approval for any research conducted without ethics approval or under an expired ethics project.

What is the approval period?

The HRECs and the Community of Practice Low Risk Ethics Committee can provide approval for up to five years.

Can I extend my approval period?

The Principal Investigator can apply for an extension before the end date of an approved project. A project modification form must be completed to request an extension of ethics approval. Please note that:

  • Requests for extension can only be granted during the approval period for which the project already has approval.
  • Retrospective extensions will not be granted.
  • The modification request must remain within the scope of work of the original approved research project.

Extension up to 12 months

A 12 month extension submitted on a modification request form can be granted to complete recruitment and data collection. Please note that:

  • Additional extensions cannot be requested once an extension has been approved.  A new application will need to be submitted.
  • Projects with a high number of modifications submitted during the initial approval period may be advised to provide a new application.
  • Requests for extensions can only be granted if all annual reporting and approval conditions have been met.

Extensions exceeding 12 months

In general, extension for periods of longer than 12 months should be submitted as a new application. Special circumstances (e.g. project paused due to unforeseen reasons, such as the COVID-19 pandemic) may be considered by the HRECs/COP Committee on the condition that appropriate justification is provided. The approving Committee may grant a 3-month extension to allow the researcher additional time to generate a new application for ethical review.

If you need any assistance, please contact Human Ethics.

If you have any additional questions please contact Human Ethics or call +61 3 9479 1443