College Human Ethics Advisory Network (CHEAN)

The College Human Ethics Advisory Network is a subsidiary of the Human Research Ethics Committee. Its role is to provide support for RMIT staff and students to conduct ethically good research, to review and approve low risk human ethics applications. The CHEAN has a dual reporting role to both the College and the HREC.

1. Responsibilities

The network is responsible for conducting the following activities

a) Fostering a culture of “ethically good research” with awareness of risks associated with human research and the mitigation of such risks

b) Ensuring that all research involving humans, their data or tissue is reviewed by the appropriate HREC or non-HREC process (i.e. no research involving humans is exempt from review)

c) Facilitating the development of high quality applications for consideration by the HREC or College

d) Facilitating a timely review of all human research ethics applications

e) Review of all college-based negligible and low risk human research ethics applications

f) Identification and approval of negligible and low risk applications as appropriate

g) Maintenance of accurate and complete records of all applications within each College

h) On-going education of the College academic community (staff and students) in ethical issues associated with the conduct of research involving humans

i) Promoting regular attendance of network meetings by members to provide consistency of review, education of network members and collegiality within the network

j) Auditing of approved research projects

k) Regular reporting of the activities of the network to the relevant College Research Committee and the RMIT HREC

2. Membership of the CHEA-network is as follows

a) A Chair and Deputy Chair are appointed by the PVC-Academic, (or nominee), after a call for expressions of interest from academics within each College. Nominees should normally be in a position of Senior Lecturer or above.

b) It is expected that the Chair and Deputy Chair would each assume the position of Chair of their respective network subsidiary if there is more than a single network group

c) A member from representative areas of the college that conduct human research. Staff must have approval from their Head of School and have included the responsibilities of membership in their annual workplan before submitting an EoI.

d) Membership should have set limits (a lower limit of five not including the Chair) and an upper limit (to be determined) so that the network can conduct its business effectively and efficiently; as determined by the PVC-Academic

e) The term of office for members of the network will be three years

f) The PVC-Academic will invite expressions of interest for new members to the network. New members will be appointed by the PVC-Academic (or nominee) in consultation with the Chair

g) The term of office for the Chair will be three years. All Chairs will attend and report to their relevant College Research Committee as required.

3. Responsibilities of the Chair

a) Leadership in the fostering of ethically good research within the College

b) Liaison and co-ordination around the provision of education and resources packages for human research ethics provided by the office of the PVC R&I for staff and students of the University

c) Development and provision of any supplementary discipline specific ethics education or resources required within the College

d) Oversight of the on-going education of members of the CHEAN

e) Oversight of the equitable distribution of workload among CHEAN members

f) Oversight of the consistency and appropriate ethical review of applications

g) Ensuring that review and approval of negligible and low risk applications is conducted in a timely manner

h) Overseeing the conduct of audits of approved research projects from time to time

i) Oversight of the submission by approved applicants of annual and final reports

j) Ensuring that the activities of the network in their College are consistent with the requirements of the ‘National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research’ and the RMIT University HREC

k) Developing regular reports on ethics approvals and ethics education for the College Research Committee (quarterly) and the HREC (annually)

l) Informing and communicating changes in ethics processes to network members.

4. Responsibilities of network members

a) Period of tenure to the network will be three years; such a time frame allows for skill development in ethical review (first 12 months, using skills (year 2) and mentoring of new members (year 3))

b) Regular attendance of network meetings to provide consistency of review, promote education of network members and collegiality within the network

c) The review of negligible and low risk applications prior to each network meeting in order to provide comment and recommendations

d) Mentoring applicants of reviewed negligible and low risk applications to ensure timely approval of application

e) Facilitating the development of high quality applications for consideration by the HREC or College by acting as an advisor for applicants prior to submission to network or HREC as requested by an applicant

f) Completion of an education and training module on human research ethics for all new members

g) Providing education workshops to local College areas if required

5. Network Secretary

The College network secretary is appointed by the PVC-Academic and College Chair.

6. Quorum:

The quorum shall be 50% of the members of each subsidiary of the College network

7. Meetings

Networks (or their subsidiary groups) will have regular meetings (at least monthly) to ensure consistency of the review process, on-going education of members and the promotion of collegiality. Meetings to usually commence in February of each year.

8. Time allocation

It is anticipated that the work of members of the network will contribute to the leadership component of the staff member’s work plan activities. Such activity may be helpful for academic promotion.

It is recognised that the performance of network members is pivotal to achieving optimum outcomes of the CHEA-network. While performance is not directly linked to number of hours spent on activities, the following is a useful guideline. Current experience suggests that each member would be required to allocate two and one-half hours per week to College human ethics activities throughout the academic year (including regular meetings, reading time and review and mentoring of applicants). The appointed Chair of the College network might expect to allocate one day per week to College human ethics activities.

9. Administrative support

Administrative support for the network must be commensurate with the activities of the network which include;

a) Maintaining a tracking database that documents:

I. Each low or negligible risk human ethics application and its status in the review process

II. Each request for assistance in completing an ethics application for review by the HREC or network (depending on risk level) and the tracking of progress

b) Regular report writing to HREC (HREC to receive minutes of each meeting of the CHEAN) and College Research Committee (quarterly), in conjunction with the Chair, including an annual report to both committees

c) Communication with applicants on behalf of the network (in conjunction with the Chair)

d) Any other correspondence requirements

e) Preparation of agendas and minutes for meetings

f) Maintaining a list of number of attendances of meetings of each member (to be included in the annual report)

10. Accountability and reporting

a) Activities of the network will be regularly communicated to the College Research Committee (quarterly) and HREC (to receive minutes of each meeting) in the form of a written report

b) A written annual report will be submitted to the College Research Committee and HREC. This report will contain but will not be limited to

I. List of negligible and low risk applications reviewed and approved by the network

II. List of applicants requesting and receiving assistance in completion of low risk and high risk applications

III. Number of human research ethics training sessions held by members of the network for their local area

IV. List of number of attendances at network meetings by each network member

V. List of annual and final reports submitted to the network

c) The Chair of the HREC will meet at least twice annually with the Chairs of the College Network to discuss any major issues within CHEAN, ethics policy review and development, and quality improvements.

11. Professional Development of members

The office of the PVC R&I will provide an education and training module on Human Research Ethics for all members of the network. All new network members will be required to complete this module. R&I will also run an annual workshop for members to promote collegiality within the network and the dissemination of best practice.

12. Education and training for researchers

The office of the PVC R&I will provide an education and training module on Human Research Ethics for all students and staff who are likely to submit an application to the CHEAN or HREC. All commencing research supervisors will be encouraged to complete this module as part of their initial supervisor development.

Annual training workshops on human research ethics should be conducted at least once per year within colleges. Members may be requested to participate in these local workshops.

13. Succession Planning

To guarantee continuing expertise of the network, the following actions are required.

a) The term of office for members of the network will be three years. Retiring members may nominate for one additional year of service with the approval of their Head of School.

b) Retired members will be invited to maintain their connections to the network by becoming involved in the annual training workshops and/or becoming a mentor for new member/s

14. Transition period

a) All HRESCs will be formally dissolved as soon as practicable in early 2009 and calls for expressions of interest from qualified staff interested in becoming members of CHEAN will be publicised in each College. It is essential that current members of HRESCs are encouraged to re-nominate for positions in the CHEAN so that their expertise is not lost in the transition period. Members of the CHEAN in the first year of operation who were also on a HRESC will not be expected to fulfil a full three year term on the CHEAN but may opt to resign at the end of 2009.

b) In the case of more nominations for membership being received in a College than there are places available priority will be given to nominees with HRESC experience. Other nominees may be appointed immediately as trainee members or placed in a pool of potential members to commence in 2010. New members will be appointed by the PVC-Academic (or nominee) in consultation with the Chair.