Research Ethics MonthlyISSN 2206-2483

Senior ConsultantsColin Thomson
Colin Thomson

Colin Thomson

Professor of Law at the University of Wollongong


Colin Thomson BA, LLB, LLM (Hons) has a fractional appointment as Professor of Law at the University of Wollongong where he is the Academic Leader for Health Law and Ethics in the Graduate School of Medicine and Health.

He was Chair of the Australian Health Ethics Committee of the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) from 2006-2009 and a member of that committee from 1998-2002.

Between 2002 and 2006, he was the Consultant on Health Ethics for the NHMRC. During this period, Colin provided consulting services to the NHMRC, the NSW Health Department and the NSW Department of Community Services (DoCS).

In 1983, he introduced the second Australian university course on law and medicine, at the Australian National University, and has since taught health law and ethics to graduate students at the University of Wollongong and conducted numerous on-site teaching sessions in health law and ethics for health professionals in ACT and NSW hospitals.

He has been a member of human research ethics committees since 1984, both in universities and the public health sector and currently chairs two committees.

He has published and spoken widely, nationally and internationally, on issues in health law and ethics. He has been Executive Officer and Chair of the Board of the Australian and New Zealand Institute of Health, Law and Ethics and Vice-President of the Australasian Bioethics Association – now combined as the Australasian Association of Bioethics and Health Law and is Secretary for the Journal of Bioethical Inquiry Pty Ltd.


The design and implementation, for the NHMRC, of a national training program for members of human research ethics committees, a one-day program repeated more than 20 times throughout Australia.

The design and conduct of induction and further education workshops for HREC members for Charles Sturt University, the Cancer Council of NSW, UnitingCare, Australian Red Cross Blood Service and Queensland Health.

Presentations on national research and ethics governance structures, on research ethics committees, on genetics and human tissue research with representatives from University College, London and the Nuffield Council for Bioethics of the UK, to a training seminar for the Mauritius Research Council.

A study, for NSW Health, of the review of multi-centre research studies by key NSW HRECs.

The development of standards for the accreditation of “lead HRECs” for NSW Health.

The development of ethical guidelines for the conduct of research involving children in care, for NSW DoCS.

Reviews of the human and animal research ethics systems in Tasmania.

A report on developing best practice in human research ethics review for the Consultative Committee on Human Research Ethics of Victoria.

For the NHMRC’s National Approach. the conduct of assessments of institutional systems of human research ethics seeking certification.

A review of research governance procedures at Western Sydney Local Health District.

Chairing an independent external research misconduct inquiry for a major Australian university.



  • National human research ethics guidelines
  • National human research ethics governance systems and structures
  • Confidentiality and privacy in human research
  • Legal aspects of human research
  • Training in human research ethics of researchers and ethics committee members


Articles in Refereed Journals

Research, Records and Access: What Interests Should Outweigh Privacy and Confidentiality Australian and New Zealand Journal of Law and Medicine 1993, 1(2), p 95.

Confidentiality and Privacy: Beyond Legal Duties, Medical Journal of Australia, 17 March 2003, Vol.178, No.6 p.252

Protecting health information privacy in research: how much law do Australians need?, Medical Journal of Australia, 19 September 2005, Volume 183, No 6, p. 315

Protecting health information privacy in research: what’s an ethics committee like you doing in a job like this?” (2006) 13 Journal of Law and Medicine 304 – 310

Monitoring medical research conduct: why, how and by whom? Internal Medicine Journal, 36 (2006) 69-71

Dodds, S & Thomson, C, Bioethics And Democracy: Competing Roles Of National Bioethics Organisations, Bioethics, 2006, 20(3), 326-338.

Pieper, Ian & Thomson Colin J.H. Contextualising merit and integrity within human research, Monash bioethics review, ISSN 1321-2753, 09/2011, Volume 29, Issue 4, p. 15.1

Pieper, Ian & Thomson Colin J.H., Justice in human research ethics

Monash bioethics review, ISSN 1321-2753, 03/2013, Volume 31, Issue 1, p. 99

Pieper, Ian & Thomson Colin J.H. The value of respect in human research ethics: a conceptual analysis and a practical guide

Monash Bioethics Review, ISSN 1321-2753, 12/14 Volume 32, Issue 3-4, p. 232

Xafis, V; Thomson, C; Braunack-Mayer, A J; Duszynski, K M; Gold, M S, Legal impediments to data linkage, Journal of law and medicine, ISSN 1320-159X, 12/2011, Volume 19, Issue 2, p. 300



Chapters in Books

Chapters 1 & 2, ‘Medical Research’, as a section of Medical Technology, Volume 20, Part 12 of Laws of Australia, North Ryde, LBC Information Services Limited (1994, 1996 & 2000)

The Right to Health, Chapter 5, Part 7: Life Health and Welfare, Volume 21: Human Rights of Laws of Australia, Law Book Company Limited, Sydney 1998 pp 87-115.

R Albury, C Thomson, S Dodds, Ethical Research: Issues for institutional ethics committees, Health: Ethics, Law & Policy Research Group, University of Wollongong, 1996

Thomson C. ‘Research Ethics Committees’. In: Ruth Chadwick, editor. Encyclopedia of Applied Ethics, Second Edition, volume 3. San Diego: Academic Press; 2012. pp. 786–796.

Israel M, Allen, G & Thomson, C (in press, 2014) Australian Research Ethics Governance: Plotting the Demise of the Adversarial Culture. In van den Hoonaard, W & Hamilton, A (eds) The Ethics Rupture: Exploring Alternatives to Formal Research-Ethics Review. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Commissioned Papers and Reports

Ethical Research and Ethics Committee Review of Social and Behavioural Research Proposals, to the Department of Human Services and Health, July 1994 (with Rebecca Albury and Susan Dodds)

Cervical Screening in New South Wales: Legal Issues, published by NSW Cervical Screening Program, Sydney, June 1998, ISBN 0-7313-8817-8

The Regulation of Health Information Privacy in Australia: A description and comment, 2004, NHMRC, ISBN 1864962941

Developing Best Practice in Human Research Ethics Review, Consultative Council for Human Research Ethics, Victoria, 2013