12.0 Research involving other organisations

12.1 Introduction

This section discusses research where organisations are directly involved as collaborators, sponsors, sites or foci in the research.

For information on projects requiring ethical approval from more than one organisation (usually called multicentre or multisite research) see Section 3 of these guidelines.

 There are a number of situations where an organisation outside Deakin may be involved in research to varying degrees. It is important in such situations that the agreement between Deakin and that organisation be clear, and the responsibilities of all parties be agreed before the research commences.

This is separate from, and additional to, any requirements for ethical approval.

The most common forms of this type of agreement are:

  • Contractual research (including sponsored research, collaborative funded research and evaluation studies)
  • Projects involving educational institutions
  • Projects involving companies, NGOs and other organisations

This is not a complete list and the types of organisations are not entirely separate, but they are discussed separately below to clarify the issues.

Agreement by an organisation to be involved in research, or to allow its employees, students or others for whom it has a duty of care to be approached to participate, is not 'consent' in the same way that an individual would consent to research. The organisation is not a participant, as persons within it may be. Instead the agreement is a 'sign off' on the activity by an appropriate representative of the organisation. Informed consent will be required from individual participants in addition to this approval.

Essentially the functions of the agreement between Deakin University and the organisation are:

  • to inform the management of the organisation of the research,
  • to ensure that someone with an appropriate position of authority within the organisation has agreed to the research,
  • to ensure that any conditions of involvement in the research are documented and met,
  • to confirm that the organisation has agreed that its employees/members/ students may be approached to participate in the research.

If the project involves the analysis of stored data held by the organisation then the agreement may include the organisation's authorisation as custodian for the researchers to have access to the data.

The agreement on behalf of an organisation for its involvement in research is a governance (managerial) decision and is separate from ethics approval. If the organisation has its own ethics review process it may also require its own ethical review.

back to top

12.2 Contractual research

There are a variety of situations in which the research agreement is put into a legal contract. In any research involving external funding the agreement between Deakin University and the funding body or organisation will be set out in a legal contract negotiated on behalf of Deakin by Deakin Grants and Contracts of Deakin Research and the University Solicitor's Office. The contract will include the elements required under the Australian code for collaborative research, as well as any other relevant matters. In these cases the contract confirms the organisation's commitment to the project, and no further documentation is required.

back to top

12.3 Research in schools

Research taking place in schools even if it is observation of normal school activities will always have special levels of sensitivity because of the age and vulnerability of the students. Research in schools (other than independent schools) will also usually involve approval from the governing body of the education system running them.

If the researchers are in direct contact with children, they may also require a police check or working with children check or equivalent.

The requirements for research in Victorian schools are as follows.

12.3.1 Research in government schools and early childhood settings

If your project involves conducting research in a government school or early childhood setting, or accessing data held by the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD) in Victoria, you must have approval from the department.

The department will assess the application for its value, potential impact on the school and participants, methodology, and ethical design. Information about these processes is available from the DEECD website.

Research involving government schools in other states is likely to have similar requirements, and it is your responsibility to make sure that they are met.

12.3.2 Research in Catholic schools

If your project involves research in a Catholic school you must have approval from the Catholic Education Office of the diocese in which the school is situated.

Information on conducting research in Catholic schools in Melbourne is available on the Catholic Education Office Melbourne website. The site also gives contact emails for inquiries regarding research in the the diocese of Ballarat, Sandhurst and Sale.

12.3.3 Research in independent schools

Approval for research in independent schools can usually be received from the principal, but it is your responsibility to ensure that if there is another process (for example approval from a school council or board of trustees) that these requirements are met. You should include details of the requirements and your compliance with them in your ethics application.

12.3.4 Additional requirements

These approval processes relate to agreement from the educational authority that the project is appropriate to be conducted within their system and that it does not overburden the schools.

Once this approval has been received, you will also need to obtain approval from the principal/s of the school/s where the research is to be conducted, and informed consent from the individuals actually participating in the research. If the students are involved directly this will usually also involve consent from parents.

back to top

12.4 Organisational approval

Organisational approval (also called organisational consent) refers to approval by a delegated officer, committee or unit of the organisation for their organisation to be involved. This will usually mean conduct of research on a site, use of the organisation's facilities or data, and/or accessing potential participants, who are employees, students or clients of the organisation.

Sometimes seeking such an agreement may only be a matter of courtesy. In other cases it can be a strict condition of the conduct of research at that organisation. An agreement is an important legal protection for the researcher as it serves as verification that the body has indicated their permission and/or support for the research.

Approval should always be in writing, but the forms may vary. One form is the 'organisational consent' form, for which the Plain Language Statement and Consent Form includes a template, but it may also be a letter (or email) from an appropriate officer of the organisation.

back to top

12.5 Managing this process

12.5.1 When is organisational approval required?

Organisational approval is normally required for research:

  • where the organisation is a focus of the research, eg where the purpose of the research is to investigate a process or issue in the organisation itself (eg a study of induction processes at a particular workplace)
  • where the organisation is the access point for recruitment (eg the participants will be teachers at a particular school as opposed to teachers in general).

12.5.2 At what point should you seek organisational approval?

Although researchers may not recruit participants or commence research prior to gaining ethical approval for a project, it is usually wise to have at least preliminary discussions with the organisations which may be involved in your project ahead of time. This increases in importance, depending on the specificity of the need for that organisation to be involved. For example if you need three primary schools to be involved in your study you may keep approaching schools until three have agreed to be involved, so in principle approval ahead of ethical review may be less significant. If you need three schools that teach a particular program or curriculum your choices may be narrower, and it is more important to make contact and gain 'in principle' approval from the schools ahead of time.

Some organisations will also require evidence of ethical approval prior to final agreement to be involved. For this reason, Deakin HREC will not usually hold up approval of a project pending organisational approval being received, but you should make it clear in the application 'where you are up to' with approval, particularly if there are formal requirements like those for research in schools.

You should be aware of the time lines for both Deakin and organisational approval, and allow plenty of time for this process to be completed.

back to top

12.6 Ethics approval and monitoring of the project

12.6.1 Ethical review

Whatever the nature of the other organisation's involvement, the project will still require approval, exemption or registration according to Deakin University's requirements for the research. Information on the various approval processes is available in Section 6.

12.6.2 Complaints and review

In the event of Deakin University receiving a complaint about the ethical conduct of a project, or a formal review being initiated (see section 16 ), it is your responsibility as the researcher to notify other bodies involved in the research. Deakin University may also liaise with the other bodies in some cases.

If you become aware of a complaint about the ethical conduct of a project received by another body, you must immediately notify the Manager, Research Integrity (research-ethics@deakin.edu.au).

12.6.3 Adverse Events

It is a condition of approval for human research projects, that you as the researcher must advise the Manager, Research Integrity (research-ethics@deakin.edu.au) and other interested parties of adverse events or other unexpected occurrences. See section 13 for details.

12.6.4 Modifications

It is a condition of approval for human research projects that researchers seek approval from the ethical review body that approved the research, and appropriately consult with all the participating bodies about the modification. The details of the process to be followed may vary, details of the processes are given in section 15 .

12.6.5 Requirements of other organisations

As the researcher you are responsible for making yourself aware of all requirements of partner organisations in relation to ethics and other processes, and ensuring that these requirements are met.

back to top

These guidelines were produced by Deakin Research Integrity in consultation with the Deakin University Human Research Ethics Committee and Human Ethics Advisory Groups

© Deakin University 2010. This material incorporates or is based upon part or all of Griffith University's research ethics arrangements.

Page custodian: Deakin Research
Last updated: