Research ethics and biorisk policies briefing session

OREI is coordinating a review and revision of the University's Code of Conduct for Research and the various policies that support it. We call this the Research Governance Framework Project. The Research Governance Framework Project is about making sensible guidance and instruction for the responsible and ethical conduct of research. It aims to clarify expectations and be informative. OREI is working with the broader research and innovation community to make the best research policies as possible. To do this we are designing new policy frameworks in concert and consultation with:

  • researchers, students, professional staff of the University
  • the University's collaborators, partners, research participants and external stakeholders
  • experts in research ethics and integrity

A briefing session on the policies was held on Tuesday 3 June 2014. The Podcast (audio only) from this seminar is now available.

Research Ethics and Biorisk Policies

OREI sought comment on draft policies that cover human research ethics, animal ethics and welfare and gene technology and biosafety. The consultation period was open from 26 May - 28 July 2014.

The policies aim to capture the principles of the cognate areas covered. The policies will be used by researchers when applying for ethics approval, committees when considering ethics applications and by those developing and delivering training in ethics.

A key feature of these policies is the creation of the Melbourne Standards. In each area, the Standards will provide advice about good or best practice research techniques. Importantly we recognize that good or best practice depends on the context in which the practice is applied. That is, there is not one right way to conduct a particular procedure that can be made a requirement across the organization. The Standards will provide guidance as to how variations should be approached and explained.

The Standards will help ensure that researchers understand what ethics committees are hoping to see in their applications, will help committees make better decisions more quickly, and help share information about good practice that we know is out there but sometimes is locked away. Critically, the Standards are to be developed in conjunction with the research community. A change to expectations of ethics committees should never come as a surprise to our researchers. In many cases, the researchers themselves are in the best position to determine what good or best practice is. The example ‘Melbourne Standard for Toast and Vegemite’, while trite, provides an indication of what we are aiming to achieve.