Ethical Responsibilities

The National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research

The National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research (2007) sets out the national standards for ethical design, review and conduct of human research. Compliance with the National Statement is a prerequisite for receipt of National Health and Medical Research Council and Australian Research Council Funding. In addition, the National Statement 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.

The National Statement requires that researchers demonstrate the values of research merit and integrity; justice; respect and beneficence in the design, conduct and reporting of research projects. The values that have particular relevance to projects using linked data are beneficence and respect.

What is beneficence?

The likely benefit of the research must justify the risks of harm or discomfort to the participants.

How do you demonstrate beneficence?

  • Identify the risks
  • Assess likelihood and severity
  • Identify whom the risks affect
  • Minimise risks
  • Manage the risks
  • Identify the benefits and to whom they will accrue

What is respect?

Recognise the value of human autonomy - the capacity to make one's own decisions including decisions about personal information.

How do you demonstrate respect?
Respect is most commonly demonstrated by gaining consent from research participants. However, the requirement for consent is not absolute. Research can be both legally and ethically acceptable even though it is conducted without consent. Ways to demonstrate respect even though consent has not been gained include:

  • Anonymisation  - the removal of information that could lead to an individual being identified( e.g. name and address);
  • Authorisation (eg HREC and/or privacy committee approval);
  • Community participation;
  • Translation of research findings into improved services and practices; and
  • Communication of research results to the wider community.