Abstract: There is widespread agreement among researchers and emergency services personnel that changes in climate and human settlement patterns in Australia will result in more frequent natural disaster events in future. Emergency management agencies need to know how community members prepare for and respond to disasters. The Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre (BNHCRC) may expect to be asked to respond to requests from emergency services agencies for researchers to go into the field to interview survivors about their experiences quite soon after disaster events such as bushfires, cyclones, floods, and severe storms. Researchers are most likely to come from universities. Some circumstances may require very rapid review of above-low risk ethics applications from university researchers seeking to conduct post-disaster field studies, by university human research ethics committees (HRECs). In 2014 Australia’s 39 university HRECs were contacted and asked to describe any provisions they had for such expedited reviews. Replies were received from 28 HRECs (72%). Nine of these 28 described provisions for expedited review of above-low risk applications–four described formal procedures, and five described ad hoc procedures that could be followed if required. Nineteen HRECs (68%) stated that they had no provisions currently for expedited review of above-low risk ethics applications; six of these discussed possible ways in which such a request might possibly be facilitated depending on circumstances. It was concluded that university researchers who may be asked by the BNHCRC to conduct post-disaster field research involving human participants should investigate their particular university HREC’s provisions (if any) for expedited review of above-low risk research well in advance of an actual disaster event and plan for possible post-disaster research accordingly. One approach suggested by several of the responding HRECs was that researchers should prepare a generic ethics application for possible above-low risk post-disaster research, secure provisional ethics approval, and submit a subsequent Application For Modification of the research for expedited approval once the specifics of a study are known.
John Mclennon (2015) University human research ethics committees’ provisions for expedited review of above-low risk research such as post-disaster community interview studies. Report, Department of Industry and Science. Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/279194481_University_human_research_ethics_committees… (accessed 27 January 2015).