Supporting Information for Researchers

AIM:  To provide advice and clarification for UNE researchers, including HDR candidates, and third-party research organisations using UNE facilities, on the impact of COVID-19 on ongoing and future research.  

UNE prioritises the health and welfare for all participants in research (human, animal, researchers, students) and this directs our endeavours.

These principles and advice are subject to change as conditions emerge, please check them frequently

Research Guidelines in response to COVID-19

Principles:

Where possible UNE supports research to be continued if all the following considerations can be met:

General Advice

Current advice can be found at:

https://www.australia.gov.au

https://www.nsw.gov.au/covid-19

Communication with funding bodies should now have been completed to manage risks to milestones, timelines, budgets and completion. Research Services and Faculty Offices are ready to assist in these discussions if they have not yet been conducted.

1. Research involving Humans

The Chair Human Research Ethics Committee advises:

1.1 Operational matters

Human Research Ethics Committee will continue to assess applications:

  • subject to continued staff/member availability, weekly E2 meetings are being conducted by Zoom until further notice
  • subject to continued staff/member availability and access, monthly E3 meetings are being conducted by Zoom until further notice.

1.2 New Applications

  • For new applications which plan to involve direct face to face contact with participants Principal Investigator’s (PI) should consider alternate methods (e.g. phone contact, Skype/Zoom) and take into account current Australian Government and NSW State COVID-19 guidelines for projects planned to be conducted while social distancing and limits on groups remain, especially where participants represent vulnerable groups (i.e. people aged 70 and over, people aged 65 and over with chronic medical conditions, people with a compromised immune system and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 50 and over with one or more chronic medical conditions).
  • When reviewing applications, COVID-19 will be taken into consideration as a potential risk for participants and researchers by the UNE HREC.

1.3 Current Approved Projects

  • For already approved projects that involve direct face to face contact with participants but which have not commenced recruitment, PI’s are advised to propose alternate methods (e.g. phone contact, Skype/Zoom) where feasible. Variations to procedure must be consistent with current Australian Government and NSW State COVID-19 guidelines and be submitted for approval in the normal meeting cycle.
  • For already approved projects that involve direct face to face contact which have commenced recruitmentPI’s are reminded of the current NSW guidelines for maximum number of people in a group (10), no non-essential travel, social distancing (1.5m), and hand hygiene, if the conduct of the project is not possible adhering to these guidelines (e.g. more than 10 people, close contact or physically touching participants is required) then PI’s are advised to suspend research activity and recruitment until current Public Health guidelines change or propose alternate methods if possible. Variations to procedure must be consistent with current Australian Government and NSW State COVID-19 guidelines and be submitted for approval in the normal meeting cycle.
  • For already approved projects that involve direct face to face contact with people aged 70 and over, people aged 65 and over with chronic medical conditions, people with a compromised immune system and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 50 and over with existing health concerns these must be immediately suspended and/or contact made with the Secretary for further advice.

The UNE HREC will endeavour to facilitate rapid review of variations to procedure, where feasible.

2. Research Involving Animals

In the current situation of reduced prevalence and spread of COVID-19, and government announcements about relaxation of restrictions, it is now appropriate to begin the process of relaxing restrictions to animal research at UNE. This process starts with allowing the commencement of new animal research that can satisfy all complying guidelines including social distancing so as to ensure safe operating procedures.

2.1 New animal related research is now supported to commence on the basis that all required approvals are in place and the practices and procedures are able to fully comply with the following:

  • 2.1.1 availability of technical and analytical personnel and services including logistics and equipment that may be required for research conduct and analysis;
  • 2.1.2 managing the potential loss, through diagnosis of COVID-19 and/or isolation requirements, of critical staff and skills required for leadership and conduct;
  • 2.1.3 being able to avoid anything more than 10 people sharing a work area at any one time and with at least 4 m2 for each person in a defined work space;
  • 2.1.4 being able to apply effective social distancing and ensure a distance of at least 1.5 metres between yourself and other people at all times;
  • 2.1.5 development of contingency plans in conjunction with the Director CART to manage animal welfare if restrictions increase to a level that does not permit successful execution or completion of experimental protocols.

2.2 Current ongoing research activity must also comply with all points 2.1.1 – 2.1.5 above.

2.3 The Animal Ethics Committee will continue to assess applications on this basis at the planned monthly meeting

UNE has provided the following supporting information for staff (login required).

HDR Candidates are recommended to routinely visit this site for the most up to date information.