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The scientific peer review process within the Department is separate from the ethical approval process, but must happen before submission for ethical approval.

Please note: This two-stage process may take up to four weeks.

Stage 1: Scientific peer review process

Keys points for the new process are:

The scientific peer review process is to be completed before submission for ethical approval. Please factor this into your timeline.

  1. When submitting your application for peer review:
  2. To share the review workload reviews will be allocated by the Chairperson of the Scientific Review Committee on an expertise basis to lecturers / research fellows and above, primarily within the Department.
  3. Turnaround times:
    • Proposals deemed to already have recognised external peer review (e.g. HRC) or review by a recognised internal body (including RAC) require a letter indicating the proposal has met the requirement for satisfactory peer review. This letter is from the Preventive and Social Medicine Chair of Peer Review or delegate, and will be issued as soon as possible and within 3 working days of receipt of request.
    • Other proposals will be required to have peer review completed within the Department. This process will take up to 10 working days for the reviews to be completed, as it relies on the availability and capacity of our colleagues to complete reviews.
    • You will need to also allow time for rebuttal of reviewers' comments.
  4. Once you have confirmation of satisfactory peer review you may begin Stage 2: Ethical approval process.

Stage 2: Ethical approval process

The ethical review process in the Department follows the scientific peer review process.

  1. All ethics applications must be submitted to the departmental ethics committee for review and approval. The only exception to this is applications to the Health and Disability Ethics Committees (HDEC), which you submit your application to directly.
  2. Scientific peer review must be completed prior to submitting an ethics application to the departmental ethics committee.
  3. Please visit the University's ethics webpage for guidance on which University ethics committee to apply to and to download the latest application form for that committee. These forms do change reasonably regularly, so always download the latest version from the site whenever you are submitting an application.
  4. Send your application on a word document to Include in your application:
    • The completed ethics application with your signature as the applicant.
    • Any information and consent sheets, as well as recruitment posters.
    • Evidence of successful scientific peer review, along with reviewers' comments and your responses.
    • Ethics applications for the University of Otago Human Ethics Committee (Health) require a copy of the study protocol. Study protocol templates.
    • Evidence of Māori consultation (if available).
    • A locality assessment (if required).
    • Any other documentation (e.g. previous ethics reviews or supporting letters from organisations) which may be relevant.
  5. Allow ten working days for the review to be completed. All ethics applications, regardless of category, are fully reviewed.
    • Category A (non-health) and Health applications have one departmental ethics committee reviewer because they have a full UOHEC or UOHEC (health) review after the departmental process.
    • Category B and Minimal Risk applications are reviewed by two departmental ethics committee reviewers and sent to UOHEC or UOHEC (health) for approval.
  6. Once the reviewers are satisfied that any issues have been addressed, the application is signed off by the chair of the departmental ethics committee on behalf of the head of department.
  7. Your application, along with the review and decision, will be forwarded to the relevant University ethics committee on your behalf. For applications that require department-level approval only, you will be notified by the University ethics committee of approval within five working days. Research approved under Category B is considered to be approved once the Departmental ethics committee chair has signed it. You may not commence any other category of research until you have received notification from UOHEC.
  8. Deadlines for the submission of full applications to the University ethics committees, and the dates for those meetings. Please factor in the time required to perform scientific peer review and ethical review when planning to submit an application for one of these meetings.
  9. If you have any questions about this process, please email the departmental ethics committee via

    Essential elements of ethical review

    When assessing your application, the ethics committee reviewers will be assessing the following points:

    1. Does the study team have the qualifications and expertise required to complete the study?
    2. Does the study team have adequate resources to complete the study?
    3. Does anyone on the study team have a conflict of interest?
    4. Has adequate scientific review been completed?
    5. Will the study be conducted outside New Zealand, and if yes, has local review approval been submitted?
    6. Will any vulnerable populations (children, prisoners, pregnant women, cognitively impaired, educationally or economically deprived, etc) be included in the study? If yes, what additional protections have been put in place to protect them?
    7. Is participant selection equitable, i.e., the research does not exclude unnecessarily groups who might benefit from the study (for example, Māori), and does not unnecessarily burden one group over others?
    8. Are protections in place to protect participants against coercion or undue influence in the recruitment and informed consent processes?
    9. Are recruitment materials (Advertisements, Information Sheets etc) appropriate?
    10. Is payment to the participants appropriate?
    11. Are the risks to participants well explained and minimised to the extent possible?
    12. Are potential benefits, both direct personal benefits and societal benefits, clear?
    13. Are the risks reasonable when balanced against the potential benefits of the study?
    14. If the study involves more than minimal risk, is the safety monitoring plan provided adequate? Is it clear who will monitor the reports of adverse events and consider stopping rules, if appropriate?
    15. Are all risks to personal privacy described and minimised?
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