Q:  I want to do an experiment involving human subjects but it contains only minimal risk. Am I still required to submit an ethics application to NUS-IRB?
A: All projects with human subjects need to be reviewed by either your Department Ethics Review Committee (DERC) or NUS-IRB. The DERCs may review Social, Behavioural or Educational research (SBER) that is of minimal risk, and qualifies for Exemption from full review. Research that is more than minimal risk or classified as human biomedical research (HBR) should be submitted to the NUS-IRB. More information can be found here.


Q:  Are there still exemptions to ethics approval for education research? For an example, conducting student satisfaction surveys or comparing assignment results between cohorts.

A:Is your activity “research”, or simply part of your teaching activity that is mandated by the department/faculty? If you are conducting student satisfaction surveys or comparing assignment results between cohorts for the purposes of improving your teaching or evaluating the course/module, IRB approval is not required. If there is intention to publish the data obtained at some point, the students become “subjects/participants”, and as such, their involvement would require informed consent prior to the study. It is considered “research”, and approval from the NUS-IRB or Department Ethics Review Committee* (DERC) is required before the study begins.

* The DERCs may review educational research that falls within the Exemption categories listed in these guidelines.


Q:  What is the difference between Human Biomedical Research (HBR), Prohibited HBR and Restricted HBR?

A:Carrying out Prohibited HBR in Singapore is an offence under the Human Biomedical Research Act (HBRA), while Restricted HBR is allowed with additional approvals. Activities concerning human stem cells, human-animal embryos fall into either of the two categories. More information can be found here.

Q:  My name was left off a paper where I think I should have been listed as an author. What can I do about it? 
A:Have you fulfilled the criteria for authorship? They can be found here

If so, you should have a discussion with the corresponding author to advocate your authorship. Failing which, RCIO can provide advice and/or mediate the discussion.


Q:  I have witnessed a suspected misconduct although I’m not sure whether it constitutes as misconduct. What should I do?

A:You should consult a senior member of your department, RCIO (rcio@nus.edu.sg), or refer to the NUS Code and Procedures on Research Integrity (available here), which contains a non-exhaustive list of misconduct acts. Please note that failure to report observed instances of Research Misconduct is a misconduct itself.