The DERC was set up in 2007, and held its first meeting on 23 July in that year. It comprises of five members (three domain-specific members and two non-domain-specific members).
All research activities after July 2007 require approval by the DERC following the requirements set up by NUS IRB (Institutional Review Board) and FASS (Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences).
Following the NUS IRB's directives and the FASS Ethics Guidelines for Research with Human Subjects (2006), the DERC has two primary objectives:
to assess the level of risk to human subjects in research projects of the Department's academic staff members and students, and
to make recommendations on the appropriate type of ethics review for each research project.
TYPES OF ETHICS REVIEW AND KEY REQUIREMENTS
IRB regulations indicate three types of review depending on the level of risk to human subjects:
For further details, please refer to p.1 of FASS Ethics Guidelines for Research Involving Human Subjects (2006), and C.F. Citro, D.R. Ilgen and C.B. Marrett (2003) Protecting Participants and Facilitating Social and Behavioral Sciences Research. Washington DC: National Academics Press.
REVIEW PROCEDURE - OVERVIEW
Based on the two objectives of the DERC and following NUS IRB requirements, FASS has identified different types of research projects and has outlined the procedure that FASS Departments should follow for each type. The four most relevant types of research projects are:
Funded Research Projects (under University funding or otherwise)
Non-Funded Research Projects (by Department's academic staff)
Graduate Student Research
Please refer to the Flowchart for further details.
1. Funded Research Projects
All research involving human subjects should seek IRB approval/exemption.
Principal Investigators (PIs) may submit applications for funding first before seeking IRB approval/exemption.
Consequently, if the research proposal is deemed acceptable by the Faculty Research Committee (FRC), an in-principle funding approval will be given, subject of course to IRB approval.
PIs may seek full review, expedited review or exemption.
They should also employ the internal mechanisms set by his/her department (DERC) to assess the level of risk, following NUS IRB's guidelines and definitions.
2. Non-Funded Research Projects (by Department's academic staff)
All research involving human subjects should seek IRB approval/exemption. (FASS Ethics Guidelines, 2006:3)
If PI seeks an expedited review or exemption, he/she should employ the internal mechanisms set by his/her department (DERC) to assess the level of risk, following NUS IRB's guidelines and definitions (FASS Ethics Guidelines, 2006:3).
3. Graduate Student Research
It is expected that graduate students should be looking to publish their research or present it at conferences. Therefore it does count as "research" requiring ethical approval in IRB's definition.
Graduate supervisor should assess the risk level of the student research and make recommendations to the Department's DERC.
Department's DERC to determine the project risk level and IRB review type.
DERC may approve directly if (a) the research is exempted for reasons set out in IRB guidelines (see IRB-Guide-006); or (b) the research involves minimal or less than minimal risk.
If the research involves more than minimal risk, supervisor should seek IRB exemption or approval on behalf of student. In this case, the supervisor will be listed as co-Principal Investigator (co-PI) in the IRB application, together with the student.
4. Honours Theses
As of November 2009, Honours students are not required to apply for DERC review provided their research is low-risk, involves non-vulnerable populations, and they have no intention to publish. If there is any risk to subjects, or vulnerable populations are involved, or the student might want to publish, DERC approval is required.
The student should discuss the ethical implications of the research with the supervisor. The supervisor should assess the risk level of the student research project and make recommendations to the Department (DERC).
Department’s DERC to determine the project risk level and IRB review type where relevant.
If a project intended for publication involves minimal risk or lower than minimal risk, and does not involve vulnerable populations, DERC may approve. DERC may also approve projects it decides to exempt from IRB review.
If a project intended for publication involves more than minimal risk and/or vulnerable populations, lecturer should seek IRB exemption or approval on behalf of student. In such cases, the supervisor will be listed in the IRB application as co-Principal Investigator (co-PI) together with the student.
If the project is not intended for publication, but involves risk to subjects, or vulnerable populations, then the student should still apply for DERC review, because the Department has a responsibility to know about and approve research in this category. However, it does not require approval from IRB as well.