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Research Ethics Approval for Taught Postgraduate Students

Research Ethics Approval for Taught Postgraduate Students

Guidelines on obtaining ethical approval of research involving human participants

As stipulated in the University’s Policy on Research Integrity, staff members and students who are the Principal Investigator (PI) of a research project involving human participants must refer their research protocols for ethical clearance by the appropriate ethics committee of the University.

The Faculty Research Committee agreed in its meeting on December 10, 2010 that the committees for taught postgraduate (TPG) programmes be delegated the authority to consider applications for research ethical approval submitted by TPG students, and that the programme committees be invited to report the approvals given to the Faculty Research Committee on an annual basis. Approved applications of research projects should be sent to the Faculty Office for record.

TPG students who are the PI of a research project which involves human participants in research investigations (including secondary data analysis) should submit an application for ethical approval, with endorsement of their supervisor, to the Programme Chairperson. The PI should make sure that such ethical approval has been obtained prior to any data collection or analysis taking place.  Failure to obtain necessary ethical approval may require recollection of data.  The case may also be referred to the Chairman of the University Research Committee for possible disciplinary action if necessary.

Please note that all research that involves collecting new data from human participants and/or using pre-existing personal data[1] is subject to ethical clearance.  Collection of new data from human participants covers all forms of collection process, e.g. experimental procedures/retreatment/intervention, focus group, telephone/internet survey, observation, personal interviews, or self-administered questionnaire, etc.  Usage of pre-existing data refers to retrieving readily available personal data from existing documents/records for secondary analysis, irrespective of whether or not the data are publicly available[2], whether or not the data originally collected are intentionally for research purpose, and whether the personal data from existing documents/records will be extracted for secondary analysis. For example, using students’ assignments for research analysis means to use pre-existing data from a private source that were originally collected for non-research purposes.

Application form for ethical approval (document A9/1017) can be downloaded here. Copies of full research proposal including any questionnaire and/or interview script and informed consent form should be enclosed to the completed application form.

The PIs of all active research projects are required to report to the Programme Chairperson any amendments and new information on the project.  Any deviation from the study protocol or compliance incident that has occurred during a study and may adversely affect the rights, safety or well-being of any participant or breaches of confidentiality should be reported to the Programme Chairperson within 15 calendar days from the first awareness of the deviation/incident by the PI. PIs may also be required to submit a final completion report. 

Application form for amendment of an approved project (document 347/413 re-amended), report form on final completion (document 348/413 amended), sample consent forms, and other references on ethical principles and guidelines can be found at the website of the Human Research Ethics Committee.

Application Form for Ethical Approval (For TPG students in Faculty of Arts)


[1]  As defined by the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance, “personal data” means any data (a) relating directly or indirectly to a living individual; and (b) from which it is practicable for the identity of the individual to be directly or indirectly ascertained; and in a form in which access to or processing of the data is practicable.

[2]  “Publicly available” means that the general public can obtain the data.  Sources are not considered “publicly available” if access to the data is limited to researchers.

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