Research complaints

From time to time a participant, researcher, or other concerned individual or organisation may wish to make a complaint or raise a concern about one of following:

  • The conduct of a University of Sydney researcher;
  • A University of Sydney research study;
  • The decisions of the University of Sydney HREC

The University also receives complaints about researchers undertaking research activities that appear not to have been approved by an HREC, or not to be undertaken in compliance with the conditions of their ethics approval and the National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research (NHMRC, 2007). In these instances, if it is deemed that the activity should have been approved by the HRECs, or that the activity was not in compliance with the conditions of approval, these matters will also constitute a human research ethics breach.

If you have a complaint or concerns about a University of Sydney research project or researcher, or about the conduct of the University of Sydney HREC, you can contact the Manager of Ethics Administration at the University.

The University of Sydney has standard procedures for receiving, handling and reviewing research complaints in accordance with the National Statement.

This process involves the following steps:

  1. The Manager, Ethics Administration (“The Manager”) receives the complaint.
  2. The Manager or a delegated representative from the Ethics Office (“The Delegate”) gathers information regarding the complaint which may include:
    a. Formal response from the researcher addressing the concerns raised;
    b. Advice from a relevant internal (University of Sydney) or external expert or agency;
    c. Documents pertinent to the complaint such as ethics applications, research tools, information statements and correspondence;
  3. The Manager or Delegate presents this information to the HREC Executive committee who make a recommendation on the appropriate course of action or escalate the complaint to the HREC for consideration if necessary.
  4. The HREC Executive may determine that the complaint is not substantiated, in which case no further action is required. If the complaint is substantiated, action may include:
    a. A requirement for amendments to the project, including increased monitoring by the HREC;
    b. Suspension of ethical approval for the project;
    c. Termination of ethical approval for the project; or
    d. Other action to resolve the complaint.
  5. The complainant and the researchers are informed, in writing, of the outcome and any necessary action by the Manager or Delegate.

If you are not happy with the outcome of a research complaint after it has been reviewed by the HREC, you have the right to dispute this decision. You can find out more about this process here.