The National Ethics Application Form (NEAF) is an online tool designed to ensure that applicants and HRECs address all the ethical considerations that are relevant according to the National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research (NHMRC, AVCC, ARC 2007) and other applicable guidelines.
In taking on the NEAF project, the NHMRC was aware of:
- A number of state-based common application form initiatives which appeared to be successful in the different jurisdictions.
- Support given by the JointStates / Commonwealth Research Issues Forum (SCRIF), for a national form; and
- The need for a national body to develop a national application form.
The NHMRC through AHEC also consulted with those jurisdictions that had implemented common application forms and with a wider group of institutions and HRECs, and received support from those broad communities.
NEAF version 1.1 was released in May 2006 and was based on the 1999 National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Research Involving Humans. Version 2 was in beta development from April 2007 and was publicly released on 28 August 2008 and responds to feedback on version 1, version 2 beta and to the revised 2007 National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research.
Features of NEAF
NEAF is a web based application form suitable for use by researchers in any discipline for the ethical review of a human research proposal by a human research ethics committee (HREC). It is hoped that all Australian institutions will authorise their HRECs to accept submissions made using this form.
The key features of NEAF are that it is:
- web-based and proposal sensitive - so that (researchers will only see and answer questions relevant to their project); and
- based on the National Statement and other national guidelines.
The key benefits of the form are that it:
- ensures that information provided to HRECs is comprehensive;
- provides consistency in process for researchers and HRECs;
- can facilitate multicentre research;
- can be periodically updated to respond to changing guidelines;
- obviates the need for institutions to update individual application forms and
- provides a data file of key fields which can be imported into institutional management processes and research databases.
Completed NEAF proposals can be made in to pdf documents or exported using either the Comma Separated Values format (CSV) (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comma-separated_values ) or Extensible Markup Language format (XML) (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xml ).
The NHMRC is providing all field codes for NEAF version two for download here. With this information, HRECs and institutions should be able to construct their own databases or software solutions to manage NEAF in an electronic form (eg the provision of the data from a completed NEAF application in XML format means that an institution could develop a portal for their research ethics system that would enable a researcher to upload all, or selected, data from their application straight into the institution's database).