In multi-centre research, it is important that the policies and processes of an institution and its Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC) comply with Australian guidelines, but that this requirement does not take time and resources away from researchers.

We developed the National Certification Scheme of Institutional Processes Related to the Ethical Review of Multi-centre Research (National Certification Scheme) to enable the single ethics and scientific review of human research that is occurring at multiple institutions in Australia. 

Under this scheme, NHMRC and external assessors evaluate and certify the ethics review processes of institutions and their HRECs against criteria outlined in the Certification Handbook and guidance in the National Statement.

Certified institutions can have their ethics review accepted by other institutions participating in the research project. This means that researchers only need to submit an ethics application to one HREC instead of multiple HRECs. The list of certified institutions is available below.

As the acceptance of an HREC’s ethics review is not mandatory under our scheme, it is up to individual institutions participating in the research project to decide whether they will accept the review outcome from a certified institution’s HREC, or conduct their own review.

Certification respects institutional decisions about research governance matters, including whether research should be conducted at a given site.

As part of this scheme, certified institutions and their HRECs are required to self-report to us on their multi-centre research activities. 

List of institutions with certified ethics review processes (PDF 230KB)

Review of the scheme

In 2016, NHMRC engaged ThinkDifferent Consulting to review the scheme. This was to ensure that it remained contemporary, used best practice approaches for ethics review and continued to meet community needs and expectations.

The full report from the review, available below, identifies a number of potential improvements to strengthen the scheme.

Final report: Review and Evaluation of the National Certification Scheme for Institutional Ethical Review Processes (PDF 578 KB) 

Current work

We have already adopted a number of the improvements identified in the review and we are currently revising the Certification Handbook. We will consult with relevant stakeholders and certified institutions as we revise the handbook and implement other improvements to the scheme.

How to apply for certification

Participation in the scheme is voluntary.

Please notify us at HREC.admin@nhmrc.gov.au if your institution is interested in applying. After discussing the application process with us, review the Certification Handbook, complete the relevant documentation and email it to HREC.admin@nhmrc.gov.au

Additional resources

You may wish to view the below documents that were used to inform the development of the scheme.

National Mutual Acceptance Scheme

All states and territories, with the exception of the Northern Territory and Tasmania, are a part of a National Mutual Acceptance (NMA) scheme. This scheme supports the acceptance of a single scientific and ethical review for multi-centre research conducted in publicly-funded health services.

Further information on the NMA scheme is available from the websites of health departments in participating jurisdictions (i.e. NSW, VIC, SA, QLD, ACT, WA). 

As the NMA scheme is a state/territory-based system, policy decisions are made at the jurisdictional level and do not involve NHMRC.

Further information 

Email address: HREC.admin@nhmrc.gov.au