Applying for human research ethics approval

Human research activities MUST NOT commence before ethics approval is obtained from the Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC). The HREC is not permitted to give retrospective approval (i.e. cannot approve research already commenced).

Plan ahead

Consider the ethics application process in your whole project timeframe.

Attend workshop

Attend the Human Research Ethics Workshop to obtain guidance or advice on your draft application.

Apply via IRMA for the following:

  • Murdoch-based project; or
  • Reciprocal project;, or
  • Exemption from formal review.

For efficient approval, see Application tips below.

Submit it to Research Ethics and Integrity by the document deadline. If you are from Psychology, submit directly to your relevant area, unless otherwise agreed.


Your application's risk level will be assessed based on a review matrix. Low risk applications will be expedited. More than low risk applications go to the next HREC meeting.

Low risk review information is available for researchers in Psychology.

Ethics review and approval

Research Ethics and Integrity will advise the Chief Investigator of the outcome and any conditions, along with a copy of the HREC Standard Conditions Of Approval (below). Once the approval is obtained, the research can begin and full funding may be released (the National Statement, p. 7).


Application tips

It is the researcher's responsibility to ensure that ethics approval has been obtained BEFORE data collection commences. Retrospective ethics approval cannot be granted. A good application assists with efficient approval.

  • Plan ahead: Allow adequate time to develop a well-considered application that addresses all ethical requirements. For example:
  • Participants: Consider the people from or about whom data is being collected as participants in the research process, not subjects or objects. Stand in the participant's shoes and ask: Before agreeing to participate, what concerns could I have? What information or assurances would I need from the researcher? How can you involve participants wherever possible? How will you provide participants with information about the outcomes of the study?
  • Risk: Consider how the project will be implemented in its entirety and how potential risks can be mitigated. What will be done if something unexpected occurs? Consider alternative approaches to minimise risk.

    Transparent ethical considerations demonstrates your awareness of the potential risks. It also demonstrates confidence in managing the risks.
  • Get advice: Get discipline-specific advice. Attend the Human Research Ethics workshop to improve the application or wth your draft application. Refer to online guidance. Seek advice from Research Ethics and Integrity. Applicants are strongly encouraged to check HREC’s legislation and links.

    Remember, ethics is an iterative process. If the HREC does not approve a project on first application or if HREC places conditions on a project, think carefully about the response. Consult with others and, if needed, obtain additional feedback from  Research Ethics and Integrity before submitting responses or resubmitting an application.
  • Write clearly: The HREC membership is diverse (National Statement 5.1.30) and members are not discipline experts. Write the application in plain English. Avoid jargon and technical terms. Information and Consent letters need to be in lay language that participants understand.
  • Proof read: Proof read for typographical or grammatical mistakes, especially in material that will go to participants on University letterhead (e.g. the Information Letter, Consent Form, flyers, recruitment material). It should be written and presented professionally.  
  • Be succinct, self-explanatory and sufficient: The application and attachments should include everything necessary for the HREC to assess the application, without reference to the full research proposal e.g. summarise the methods section without reference to lengthy explanations elsewhere.

Note: once approval is obtained, a researcher is only approved to undertake the research as outlined in the application and its approval conditions. changes or amendments must be approved before they are implemented.