With the COVID-19 outbreak in Australia beginning to stabilise, state and federal governments and ACU are looking at how we return to a ‘new normal’ in our work practices. Accordingly, we are providing you with an update on our plans for a return to research, including an outline of the support our office will provide. This plan is provided to assist with your planning and preparation.

COVID – Safe Guidelines for Research – Update February 2023

The Australian Catholic University continues to prioritise the health and safety of our community. The following outlines our approach to managing COVID-19 risks in research in 2023. As we move to public health recommendations rather than mandatory requirements, we seek your cooperation in following this guidance to keep our community healthy and minimise the impacts of illness throughout the conduct of your research at ACU.

The Federal Government outlines restrictions and recommendations on its COVID-19 website and information relevant to the different states is available from the Safe Work Australia site. Further guidance (from 2020) has been provided to Universities with a guide published by Universities Australia ‘Principles andProtocols for Reducing the Potential Risk of COVID-19 Transmission at Universities’.

If your research involves vulnerable groups such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People, older Australians/aged care settings, people with a disability then you should refer to The Department of Healthand Aged Care for COVID-19 requirements when working with these groups. The ACU HREC requires researchers in contact with vulnerable groups to have received three doses of COVID-19 vaccine. It is the researcher’s responsibility to ensure they are conversant with any requirements by external agencies (which may differ from state to state) for conducting research at their sites.

ACU researchers should take into consideration the following factors as to whether the research can continue or should be delayed for research activities that involve close contact.

  • The overall benefits of the research continuing against the possibility of transmission of COVID-19;
  • Risk management strategies;
  • Whether the research is time-critical for delivering substantial benefits to patient cohorts;
  • If the research activity could be delayed;
  • Whether the research protocols could be changed to eliminate or reduce face-to-face interaction to 15 minutes or less;
  • Whether the study involves participant groups who are at an elevated risk;
  • Whether the study involves access to facilities such as aged care residences, hospitals, schools, etc. that may be subject to heightened access restrictions;
  • Where face-to-face or physical interactions remain, whether all other available transmission controls (e.g. personal protection equipment, suitable hygiene practices, etc.) are in

After considering these factors, if researchers determine that the research activity will continue they should remind participants of what their participation entails (e.g., location of the research, transport to location, physical contact, etc.) and that they are free to withdraw at any time and for any reason.

Any enquiries should be directed to the ACU Human Research Ethics Committee (res.ethics@acu.edu.au)

Other research FAQs

The ARC and NHMRC have confirmed that any variations to funded 'research projects and researchers that have been directly affected by the Coronavirus pandemic' can be considered via their usual post-award procedures. Impacts may involve 'changes in circumstances, including scope changes, personnel changes, suspensions and extensions to end dates'. The ARC and NHMRC will consider variation and extension requests on a case-by-case basis.

Review the latest information and communications from your funding body to check if this research can be delayed/extended. If the research can be extended and conducted at a later date and you would like to do so, notify your research team and submit the details and budget variation to the post-award team. Notify the contracts team of your proposed changes and ensure they are able to be made from a contractual perspective. If the research cannot be extended and the project must be closed down, please contact post-award.

Yes. Research that is able to be conducted remotely and that does not place researchers or research participants at increased risk of contracting a COVID-19 infection may continue as approved.

The contract milestones and timeframes in research contracts and agreements for your project may be affected. Legal issues may arise from extended timeframes or changes to protocols. The contract parties will be able to consider these changes and usually agree to an appropriate outcome. However, you must contact the Office of Research Services (the Director, Dr Michael Baker and the Research Contracts Team) before you contact or make arrangements with any other party or funder for your project.

Many ethics applications are reviewed and approved by other organisations and registered with ACU. For ACU researchers working under the auspices of an external HREC (such as a hospital HREC), and where no research is conducted on ACU premises, researchers should defer to the guidance being provided by that HREC.

If you have a research related question or concern that has not been addressed in the above FAQ, please feel free to contact the relevant team within the office of Research Services.

Key contacts

Ethics: res.ethics@acu.edu.au
Research Contracts: res.contracts@acu.edu.au
Post Award: res.postaward@acu.edu.au
Grants Team: res.grants@acu.edu.au
HDR Candidature: res.cand@acu.edu.au
Director Research Services: res.director@acu.edu.au

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