Current Students

Research Ethics Approval for Taught Postgraduate Students

Research Ethics Approval for Taught Postgraduate Students

Guidelines on obtaining ethics 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 (including secondary data analysis) must refer their research protocols for review and 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 ethics 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 apply for ethics approval, with endorsement of their supervisor, to the Programme Chairperson. The PI should make sure that such ethics approval has been obtained prior to any data collection/ analysis taking place.  Failure to obtain necessary ethics approval may require recollection of data.  The case may also be referred to the Chairperson 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 ethics 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.  The minimum retention period for research data and records is three years after publication or public release of the research to ensure that there are no problems with consent, fabrication and falsification.

Application form for ethics approval (document A40/1223) is available 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 and submitted to the Programme Chairperson for consideration.  

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 on the request of the Programme Chairperson or the Faculty. 

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

Starting from October 1, 2021, all staff members and students (including undergraduates, taught postgraduates and research postgraduates) who are PI of a research project that involves artefacts should observe the Code of Practice for Ethical Vetting of Research Projects Involving Artefacts and obtain ethics approval from the HREC direct prior to any data collection/analysis taking place.  If the research project involves both human participants and artefacts, two separate applications should be submitted to the Programme Chairperson and the HREC respectively. Please also refer to the HREC website for details. 

Application Form for Ethics 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 (c) 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.