The Auckland Health Research Ethics Committee (AHREC)

The AHREC ethics process has changed. From 6 September 2019, the current PDF submission process for AHREC ethics applications has been retired and applicants must now submit and obtain sign-off for their AHREC application using a new system Infonetica Ethics Review Manager (Ethics RM). Please visit our 'What has changed for AHREC?' section to understand how the ethics submission software and process has changed.

AHREC provides ethical oversight and approval of clinical research that is not eligible for review by a Health and Disability Ethics Committee (HDEC), and is carried out by staff and students of the University of Auckland and staff of the Auckland District Health Board and Counties Manukau District Health Board.

 

This page contains the sections:

  • What has changed for AHREC?
  • What training is available?
  • Infonetica Ethics RM online system link
  • Infonetica Ethics RM quick refrerence guides
  • Before completing the application
  • Application process
  • University of Auckland Office of Ethics and Integrity Team
  • Complete and submit an application
  • Meetings and submission deadlines
  • Amendments to ethics protocols after approval
  • Post-approval

What has changed for AHREC?

A project was initiated in November last year to replace the University’s current ethics management system (InfoEd) with a system that utilises modern technology and can meet the University’s future ethics management requirements.

A system called Infonetica Ethics Review Manager (Ethics RM) has been selected as the replacement for InfoEd ethics management. Ethics RM is used by Monash and Macquarie Universities and Health Boards in a few Australian states, and a prior version of Ethics RM is also the system used for submitting HDEC applications in New Zealand.

What are the most important changes?

The PDF submission process for AHREC ethics applications has been retired and applicants must submit and obtain sign-off for their AHREC application using Ethics RM system.

As part of the introduction of Ethics RM for AHREC, the following major changes in the current submission process should be noted:

  • AHREC eligibility criteria expanded to include Counties Manukau District Health Board (CMDHB) –
    •    The scope of the AHREC ethics committee has expanded to provide ethical oversight and approval of clinical research (not eligible for review by a Health and Disability Ethics Committee (HDEC)), carried out by staff and students of the University of Auckland, the Auckland District Health Board and Counties Manukau District Health Board.
    • The AHREC review process will include locality/management approval for the University of Auckland, Auckland DHB and Counties Manukau DHB studies that fulfil the eligibility criteria for AHREC review.
  • Student (PhD, Masters and Honours Students) ethics application process:
    • All students (PhD, Masters and Honours Students) can now complete their AHREC ethics applications in the Ethics RM system.
    • Note: PhD and Masters students will automatically have access to Ethics RM but access for Honours students will need to be requested by the academic supervisor once for each academic course.  Please see step 1 of the Infonetica Ethics RM – Create a Student Application Guide for details on how to request Honours student access to Ethics RM.
    • The academic supervisor or Principal Investigator (PI) must first create a ‘shell’ of the application (completing minimal details - project title and principal investigator / supervisor name) and share the application with the student for completion. (This is necessary because the person who initiates the form in Ethics RM is the form owner and controls who can access and submit the form).
    • Once the student has completed the application in Ethics RM, they must request their academic supervisor / PI to review the application and submit it for Academic Head sign-off.
    • A Word version of the AHREC application form is still available for those who wish to continue to use it to provide feedback on a student’s application using tracked changes. Once the Word version application is finalised, the student can copy the content into the online Ethics RM form and request submission by the academic supervisor / PI as detailed above.  (Ethics RM enables a PI / supervisor to insert review comments against the various sections of an application but these cannot be marked up with track changes).
  • Request for Academic Head sign-off:
    Applicants will need to add the name of their Academic Head (or delegated sign-off) once the application is ready for submission. Once signed-off, the application will automatically be sent on to the Ethics and Integrity team for further processing.
  • Amendment request process –
    For a period of time, amendments to an approved AHREC ethics application will be managed in two ways, depending on how the initial application was processed.
    • If the initial application was previously submitted by email (prior to Ethics RM being implemented), the amendment request should be emailed as a PDF to ahrec@auckland.ac.nz, using the current amendment request form (see link to the form below).
    • If the initial application was submitted using Ethics RM, any amendment requests should be initiated through the Ethics RM system.
      More details of some of the benefits of using Ethics RM can be found in AHREC Ethics Process Key Changes.

 

What training is available?

Quick reference guides are now available from the Infonetica Ethics RM Guides section below to provide guidance on how to use Ethics RM, and on-line learning simulations will also shortly be available.
In addition, classroom training sessions have been run in August and more are being offered during September.
Please click on the links provided to book into one of the available training sessions:
 

Link to online system

Infonetica Ethics RM Guides

Applicant and Collaborator Guides

Academic Head / Departmental Sign-Off Guides

Committee Chair and Reviewer Guides

Other Guides

Before completing the application

Determine whether your application should be submitted to an HDEC, AHREC, or UAHPEC.

If a study is not eligible for review by an HDEC and involves recruiting human participants from the geographic region served by the Auckland or Counties Manukau DHBs as well as from one or more additional DHBs, the application must be submitted to AHREC.

Preparing the application

  • Go through the AHREC Manual. This manual outlines the mandatory items that must be included in the application and other information essential for making ethics applications.
  • Please ensure that your application is complete. Incomplete applications will be returned to the applicant for completion. The AHREC will not review the application until it is complete.
  • Failure to comply with all requirements outlined in the Manual will result in the application being returned to the applicant for revision.
  • Please proofread your application and public documents closely and ensure that these are edited by someone with an excellent grasp of English.

Application process

There are two pathways for review of AHREC ethics applications: expedited review and full review.

Expedited Review

A research project in which there is deemed to be a low risk of physical harm, psychological harm, exploitation or other potential adverse effect will be reviewed via an expedited review process. Expedited applications will be reviewed by one Committee member and the Chair outside of the Committee meetings. The turnaround time for applications is usually about three weeks from the time of submission of the application.

Examples of low-risk studies are those that:

  • require access to health information only, where the person accessing the data is involved in the clinical service provision in that clinical area
  • involve administration of low risk procedures (e.g. interviews, questionnaires, etc.) not as part of clinical care and not involving vulnerable participants
  • observation only of clinical processes by members of the clinical team.

During the expedited ethical review, reviewers may recommend that the application is referred to the Committee for full review.

Full Review

Any research not qualifying for an expedited review will be placed on the next AHREC agenda for review at a Committee meeting. Each application will be reviewed by two Committee members prior to the meeting, and an outcome determined after Committee discussion of the application. After each AHREC meeting the Ethics Administrators will inform PIs of the Committee decision within five working days. The turnaround time for applications is usually about four weeks from the time of submission of the application.

Ethics and Integrity Team

For any queries about an AHREC application, please contact an Administrator in the Ethics and Integrity Team.

Should you need any advice and guidance regarding your application, please make an appointment to speak with an ethics advisor well before the submission closing dates (see submission closing dates below).

Key Contacts

Dr Elizabeth Visser
Ethics and Integrity Manager
Email: e.visser@auckland.ac.nz
Phone: Ext 83711

Colleen Altagracia
Ethics Advisor

For support and advice on dealing with project-specific ethical issues -

Faculties of Business and Economics, Creative Arts and
Industries, Engineering, and Medical and Health Sciences, and ABI
Email: humanethics@auckland.ac.nz
Phone: Ext 88293

Fiona Cheal
Ethics Advisor
For support and advice on dealing with project-specific ethical issues - Faculties of Education and Social Work, Science, Law, Arts and the Liggins Institute.
Email: humanethics@auckland.ac.nz
Phone: Ext 81338

Ben Fulton
Regulatory Approvals Administrator
Email: ahrec@auckland.ac.nz
Phone: Ext 85405

The Principal Investigator (PI) of a study must submit the ethics application for ethics review. For student  research (including Doctoral, Masters and Honurs), applications should be submitted by the primary supervisor who will be named as the PI.

Meetings and submission deadlines

Applicants can request to attend a meeting to discuss their ethics application with the Committee. However, the Committee reserves the right to close the meeting at any time. Please contact the Ethics and Integrity Team to advise the committee if you wish to attend a meeting. The Committee may also request that an applicant attend.

Amendments to ethics protocols after approval

Minor amendment requests are approved by the AHREC Chair under delegation, but any major changes to a protocol will be reviewed at the next AHREC meeting.

If you have any questions about the amendment request process please contact the Ethics and Integrity Team.

Post-approval

Once the study has concluded, the Principal Investigator must submit a final report to AHREC. The report must be submitted as an attachment to ahrec@auckland.ac.nz, with the AHREC reference number and “Final Report” in the email’s subject line. The report will be reviewed by the Committee via the Expedited Review process. No further action will be necessary, unless the Committee wishes to discuss the report at a meeting.