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Ethics FAQ

Does my application need to go through the PHSREC?

  1. If your research involves access to only NSW state-wide data collections, it must be reviewed by the PHSREC. All research involving access to data collections owned or managed by NSW Health or the Cancer Institute NSW must be reviewed by the NSW PHSREC. There is no other ethics committee with a mandate to approve research proposals requiring access to these collections.
  2. If your application is a cross-jurisdictional record linkage, it can be reviewed by the PHSREC, or one of the other data linkage specialist HRECs party to the NMA.
  3. If your application involves linkage between NSW-only data collections and Commonwealth data collections, your research will need to be reviewed separately by the PHSREC and the AIHW HRECs.

What will the PHSREC review?

The NSW PHSREC is accredited in NSW as a lead Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC) for general research. The NSW PHSREC will undertake scientific and ethical review of population health research utilising and/or linking routinely collected health (and other) data. The PHSREC reviews submissions in the areas of both cancer and non-cancer research. The NSW PHSREC will also review mixed methods research where a component of the research meets the above description.

Does the CHeReL have to do all data linkages, or are other bodies permitted to link NSW Health data?

For studies requiring linkage of NSW Health datasets, it is recommended that the linkage is performed by the Centre for Health Record Linkage (CHeReL). If the research involves linkage to the NSW Central Cancer Registry, there is a requirement that the linkage must be performed by the CHeReL.

While the Committee does not mandate the use of CHeReL, it does require specific detail regarding methodology for separating linkage and analysis to protect confidentiality if not using the CHeReL. With this in mind, applicants can make a case for not using the CHeReL provided they can give explicit protocols for how identity will be protected.

What do I need to submit with my ethics application?

Please consult the "How to Apply" page available on our website.

How can I make sure my application is approved as quickly as possible?

  1. Refer to the guidelines for submission available on the Cancer Institute NSW website 
  2. Make sure your application is complete – an unclear or insufficiently detailed application may result in unwanted delays
  3. Include all required supporting documentation with signatures
  4. If you are unsure about what is required, seek clarification from the Executive/Ethics Officer
  5. A timely response to any queries received from the Executive/Ethics Officer will help to expedite your review
  6. Closely observe closing dates for submissions and/or responses to the Ethics Committee

I'm a student—who is required to submit my ethics application, my supervisor or myself?

It is not the usual practice of the PHSREC to approve a student as the Principal Investigator of a study. You should appoint a Principal Investigator for the application who is not a student.

What if I want to request access to identifiable variables?

The Committee is unlikely to approve the release of variables (such as postcode and date of birth) which increase the likelihood of identifiability, without strong justification and detailed information regarding the requirement for and use of these variables in your analyses.

How strict are submission closing dates for the PHSREC?

Due to the number of applications received and the short time frames between the issuing of the agenda, and PHSREC meetings, submission deadlines are strict. Please contact the Executive/Ethics Officer at CINSW-Ethics@health.nsw.gov.au if you have any concerns regarding submission deadlines.

What happens following review by PHSREC or the Executive Committee?

Once your application has been reviewed, the minutes of the meeting are compiled for approval by the Chair. Feedback is then sent to researchers via email within 10 business days of the meeting.

Will my application be approved straight away?

Less than 10% of all applications are approved as submitted. In instances where an application is not approved, the Committee may request modification or further information/clarification pending a reconsideration of the proposal.

How should I respond to the Committee's feedback?

Applicants should respond to any request for further information in writing. Please address a signed and dated letter to either the Committee Chair or Executive Officer and include tracked and clean versions of any updated documentation. Responses should be returned to the Executive/Ethics Officer at CINSW-Ethics@health.nsw.gov.au as soon as practicable.

Who should I contact if I have concerns or complaints about a study approved by the NSW Population & Health Services Research Ethics Committee?

Any person with concerns or complaints about the conduct of a study should contact the Executive Officer who is the person nominated to receive complaints from research participants. You should contact them on 02 8374 5689 and quote the HREC reference number.

Any person with concerns or complaints about the conduct of a study may also contact the relevant Research Governance Officer or other officer for the site(s) involved in the study, as stated in the Participant Information Sheet.