Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
To skip to a particular section of the FAQs click on the links below
‘My Details’ section
‘Invite Users’ search function
Submitting your Proposal
What is NEAF? NEAF has been designed to assist researchers in preparing their research ethics proposals for review by Human Research Ethics Committees (HRECs). NEAF ensures that all elements prescribed by the ethical guidelines and legislation relevant to your proposed research are addressed. This will assist in preventing the common situation of incomplete or incorrect information being provided to HRECs and HRECs therefore needing to contact researchers to clarify information. This situation can delay the ethical review process.
What happens to my proposal in NEAF once it is completed and submitted? As a tool for submitting research ethics proposals to HRECs, NEAF is not designed to be a long-term storage or archive facility. NEAF will store your proposal for 12 months from date of creation. You will be sent an email at 48 weeks reminding you that your proposal will soon be deleted and another reminder email at 51 weeks. These reminders will give you time to download your proposal to your computer in either Portable Document Format (PDF), Extensible Markup Language (XML), Comma Separated Values (CSV) or Microsoft Access format, if you would like to retain your proposal for any future reference. After 52 weeks, your proposal will be removed and will no longer be accessible through NEAF.
Your proposal can not be accessed by other NEAF users unless you invite them to have such access [see the FAQ Section on the Invite Users search function for more information on this feature]. You should read carefully the privacy statement provided on the NEAF website for information on how the personal details you enter on NEAF will be used.
What kind of questions will I be asked in NEAF? Is there a full list of all NEAF questions? NEAF is a dynamic online form that expands or contracts depending on the answers you provide. Your answers in Section 5 (Project) and Section 6 (Participants) may populate further relevant questions for you to complete in Section 7 (Participant Specific) and/or Section 9 (Project Specific).
You can download the full question list from the NEAF homepage. This list contains every single question that is possible within a NEAF proposal but it does not show the dependencies between individual questions or question sets. Please note that a typical proposal will not include every possible question within the NEAF.
For a briefer overview of each section in NEAF you can also download the NEAF Quick Reference Map here.
Are there templates available? In response to NEAF user feedback, NEAFAssist has developed four NEAF proforma applications. These have been developed to provide guidance as to the types of questions users may be asked.
You can download the NEAF proforma applications from the NHMRC website.
These proforma applications have not been designed to replace individual users’ consideration of the principles in the National Statement. Researchers will still be required to familiarise themselves with the National Statement and tailor their answers in their NEAF application accordingly.
*NEAF proforma applications are for demonstration and information purposes only and are not to be submitted*
I have been told to use a different website for my ethics application. What is the difference between www.neaf.gov.auand www.ethicsform.org/au? A separate website (www.ethicsform.org/au) exists for ethical applications under a licensed system (AU RED) that is used in the public health systems of NSW, QLD and Victoria. www.ethicsform.org/au is a licensed copy of NEAF and while the ethical content of the two forms remains the same, the order and numbering of the two forms differs. www.ethicsform.org/au contains additional jurisdiction-specific modules that www.neaf.gov.au does not. You will need to contact the Research Governance Office in the appropriate state for advice on these matters.
NEAF Assist provides technical support and explanation about the ethical principals underpinning the proposal questions for www.neaf.gov.au. The helpdesk details for www.ethicsform.org/au are:
Phone: (02) 9037 8404 Email: email@example.com
I need to import/export my ethics proposal. How can I do this? You can import your ethics proposal into institutional databases or to www.ethicsform.org/au. Open the proposal you wish to import. At the top right of screen, select the Save to Disk button and select either XML or CSV from the list that appears as a pop-up window. These are raw data formats that will enable import/export of your proposal questions and answers. You will need to save this file in a suitable location on your computer or to disk.
If you need to import your data file into an institutional database or other type of data storage facility, you will need to contact your HREC or Research Office to ascertain the procedures surrounding this. If you need to import your data file into www.ethicsform.org/au, please contact the Infonetica Helpdesk (phone 02 9037 8404 or email to firstname.lastname@example.org).
I have created a new account but I have not yet received notification of my password. Generally your user credentials should arrive to your nominated email address immediately after you complete the set-up process. In some instances computer, network or system security settings prevent the delivery of emails sent from NEAFAssist and delays may occur. If you experience any problems or lengthy delays when creating a new account, please contact NEAF Assist by phone (1800 500 983 9AM-5PM Australian Eastern Time) or email (email@example.com).
My account is locked and I cannot access it. Contact NEAF Assist by phone (1800 500 983 9AM-5PM Australian Eastern Time) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org) to unlock your account.
What do I do if I have forgotten my username and/or password? The first step to retrieving your username and password is to check the original email you were sent from NEAF when you signed up as a NEAF user. This email will include your login username and original password. If you no longer have the email or you have changed your password, you can retrieve your details by clicking on the Forgotten Password link on the NEAF login page or by using the forgotten password tool. Once you’ve entered your email or username and click the Submit button, you will be sent an email providing you with your username and password.
Can I change my username? You cannot change your username. The only way to change your username is to delete your account (and consequently any proposals within that account will also be deleted) and create another new account. You can change your password and other information on your My Details page.
Can I delete an account? If you wish to have your NEAF account permanently deleted you will need to contact NEAF Assist by phone (1800 500 983 9AM-5PM Australian Eastern Time) or email (email@example.com). Account deletions are PERMANENT and it is recommended that users save any existing proposals in PDF, XML or CSV format.
Why do I have to fill out the MY DETAILS section of NEAF? The My Details section includes fields for your name, contact details, organisation and position, expertise, qualifications and experience. Compulsory fields in the My Details section are highlighted with a red asterisk.
When completing a proposal, you will be given the option of populating contact fields in Section 2 of NEAF by using the details you have entered in the My Details page. In order to utilise this time-saving feature, you will need to ensure your full details have been entered on this page.
You should read carefully the privacy statement provided on the NEAF website for information on how your personal details will be used.
When you first register with NEAF, you are asked what details, if any, you would like to have included in NEAF’s Invite Users search function – a searchable directory that allows NEAF users to search for other users for the purposes of inviting them to have access to their proposals. The My Details section records your preferences in relation to what details you have selected to be listed in this search database. You can change these preferences at any time within the My Details section. [See the FAQ Section on the Invite Users search function for more information on this feature.]
How do I go to specific sections of the proposal form? To go to a specific question in your proposal form, open your proposal from the My Proposals page. This page will direct you to the Proposal Summary page. The second section of the Proposal Summary page includes a Status List whichindicates stages of completion or incompletion. Click on the green plus symbol (+) next to the section required, and this will open up the questions in this section within the hierarchy. Once you’ve found the relevant question or section, click on the question text and this will open the proposal questions at the required question.
What happens to information I’ve entered once I click NEXT or PREVIOUS on the proposal page? As NEAF is designed to provide only the questions relevant to your research ethics proposal, clicking Next or Previous on your proposal pages will take you to the next or previous group of questions relevant to your proposal. Once you click the the Next or Previous buttons, any new data you’ve added will be automatically saved.
The ‘next’ button is not working properly; it keeps skipping individual pages and takes me to the next section instead. This can occur if you have entered a large number of HRECs, Australian sites or overseas sites into Section 4 of your proposal. If you need to revise your number of HRECs or sites, you can change your numerical answer at the appropriate question, however before you do this you will need to clear any information you may have added in the subsequent answers.
If you are working with a large number of HRECs and/or sites, you can still navigate through your proposal by using the Status List on your Proposal Summary page.
What formats can I save my proposal in? To save your proposal to your computer, select the Save To Disk button at the top of your Proposal Summary page. NEAF currently allows users to save the data entered in NEAF in either Portable Document Format (PDF), Extensible Markup Language (XML), Comma Separated Values (CSV) or Microsoft Access format.
Saving NEAF in PDF allows you to review and submit research ethics proposals to HRECs. This format also allows you to create a static Word document from the PDF file, for your own records.
All PDF files must be viewed using the Adobe Acrobat Reader software. If you do not have Acrobat on your computer you can download this free of charge from the Adobe website by clicking here. You will need 20MB of free space on your computer to download Adobe Acrobat Reader. You can copy and paste text out of a PDF document in Adobe Acrobat by using the ‘Tools>basic>text select’ button.
To allow users and HRECs to use the raw data held in NEAF, you may choose to save your data in CSV format, which will save the raw data in MS Excel format. Saving your data in CSV format allows this information to be exported into other programs for analysis and review.
How do I know when my proposal will be saved? There are a number of save points within NEAF, including automatic saving and user-driven save options. Information you’ve entered may be saved in the following ways or at the following points:
How can I access the PDF version of my ethics proposal?When you have opened your proposal, click the Print Proposal button at the top right of screen. You can open the PDF file then or you can save the file to an appropriate location on your computer or disk to open later.
I still have a "DRAFT" watermark on my ethics proposal PDF – how can I get rid of this?The Proposal Summary page provides you with a summary and status list of your proposal and acts as an easy navigation tool. Your Status List shows a green tick represents a completed section or question and a red cross represents an incomplete section or question.
Click on the green plus symbol (+), to the left side of the corresponding section title, to expand each section to view the section in more detail. Continue clicking the green plus symbols that appear to the left of each sub-section to then expand the sub-section to eventually reveal all individual questions within each section of your proposal. You can then see which individual questions may have been inadvertently missed. To contract your Status List, click the green minus symbol (-).
If you click on any question text in your Status List you will be taken directly to that page.
Why do I need to use Adobe Acrobat for printing my proposal? To ensure consistency when printing a research ethics proposal for submission or review, the proposal is printed in PDF format. All PDF files must be viewed using the Adobe Acrobat Reader software. If you do not have Acrobat on your computer you can download this free of charge from the Adobe website by clicking here. You will need 20MB of free space on your computer to download Adobe Acrobat Reader.
How do I print my proposal? To print your proposal you are first required to save the file as a PDF. To do this;
I want to print without saving the PDF to my computer. Can I do this?
Yes, you have the option to print the PDF without saving it to your computer. To do this, follow the instructions above, and rather than choosing Save from the ‘file download’ window, choose Open and the proposal will be opened in PDF in a new window. You can then click on the Print button in Adobe Acrobat and your proposal will be printed.
I only want to print a specific part of my proposal. How do I do this? There are three options for printing specific questions or sections of your proposal:
How do I know when I’ve completed all the required questions for my research ethics proposal? You can check the status of your proposal in a number of ways.
Why do the questions in my form not run consecutively? Am I missing questions from my proposal?
NEAF has been designed to skip questions that are not relevant to your proposed research ethics proposal; for example, you will not be asked questions about clinical trials if you do not select the 'clinical research' option in Section 5. Therefore, if questions are not relevant to your proposal, they will not be visible to you in either the electronic or print form of your research ethics proposal. As a reference tool, all questions are numbered. Gaps in the sequence of question numbers in your research ethics proposal therefore indicate that certain questions have been skipped as they have been deemed irrelevant to your proposal.
Any incomplete questions in your NEAF that you are required to complete will be represented by a red ‘X’ in the Proposal Summary page Status List of questions, and as ‘not answered yet’ on the printed form.
I believe I have completed my proposal, but NEAF tells me my proposal is still incomplete. How do I identify which questions are still needing to be answered?
The Proposal Summary page provides you with a breakdown of your proposal. Any Sections of your proposals that contain incomplete questions will have a red ‘X’ next to them in the Status List of questions. You can investigate which specific questions within the Section are incomplete by expanding out each Section to view its contents in more detail. You do this by clicking on the green plus symbol (+) on the left of the Section or sub-section.
Incomplete questions are also identified as ‘not answered yet’ on the PDF of your proposal.
Invite Users Search Function
What is the Invite Users search function? One of the features of NEAF is the potential for users to invite each other to read or edit their research ethics proposals. For example, a user may wish to give a co-investigator access to edit or contribute to their proposal, or to invite a colleague or supervisor to read their proposal for comment.
To invite a NEAF user to have access to their proposal, the proposal’s author must use the Invite Users search function within NEAF. This function allows the author to search for the person they wish to invite by first name, surname, organisation, email or username (depending on what information the person they are searching for has agreed to have in the search database). Once they have found the person they wish to invite, the author can then ask NEAF to forward an email to that person asking them if they would like to access their proposal. This is done automatically through the NEAF system and the author is not provided with any details of the person they are inviting that are not already available in NEAF’s search database. The invited person can then choose to either reject or accept the author’s invitation.
What are your options in relation to this feature? As a NEAF user, you have three options in relation to what details appear in this searchable database. You can opt to:
Importantly, your decision in relation to what details, if any, you wish to appear in this searchable user database only affects your ability to be invited to access other users’ proposals. Your inclusion in this database does not automatically allow other users access to your own proposals. You would need to invite other users yourself using the Invite Users search to allow such access.
What option is right for you? You should choose option (1) if you are happy for your identifiable details (first name, surname, organisation and email) to appear in the NEAF Invite Users search function and for other NEAF users to use this function to search for these details and invite you (via email) to access their research ethics proposals.
You should choose option (2) if you would like other NEAF users to have the ability to invite you to access their proposals but would prefer to only have your username appear in the search database. You may also wish to create your username in a way which ensures that it is not identifiable. If you choose this option, you would need to provide other NEAF users with your username outside from the NEAF system if you would like to give them the ability to invite you to access their proposals through NEAF. This could be done by sending them an email from your standard email account in which you would provide your username.
You should choose option (3) if you do not wish to allow other NEAF users to have the ability to invite you to access their proposals.
Please consider carefully the potential benefits of this feature before making a decision.
Can I change my option later? If you later decide to change the option you chose when you registered as a NEAF new user, you may do so by going to the My Details section once you have logged into NEAF.
What is the difference between “Read Only” and “Edit” access for an invited user? When inviting another user to your proposal, you can select Read Only access or Edit access. Read Only allows the invited user to see your proposal in a read-only format and the invited user cannot make any changes to your proposal. You can also change the level of access for an invited user at any time.
Edit access allows the invited user to have free access to your proposal and allows them to modify the content. Any modifications made by the invited user will override the original author’s answers, for this reason it is strongly suggested that before inviting a user to edit your proposal, you utilise the Copy function and invite the user to edit the copy you have made.
Is there a ‘tracked-changes’ function that shows changes an invited user has made?NEAF does not have a “tracked-changes” capability such as that found in Microsoft Word. However, any changes made to a proposal by an invited user will be indicated below the corresponding answer box with [response last modified by X] in red text. For this reason it is also recommended that before inviting a user to edit your proposal, you utilise the Copy function and invite the user to edit the copy you have made rather than the original.
Can I delete a proposal that I've been invited to?You cannot delete an invited proposal from your My Proposals list because the proposal belongs to another user. You can remove the proposal from your My Proposals page by selecting the remove button on the right side of the proposal title.
If you grant an invited user Edit access to your proposal, they have the ability to delete all answers you have provided. For this reason it is strongly suggested that before inviting a user to edit your proposal, you utilise the Copy function and invite the user to edit the copy you have made.
I’ve followed the instructions on how to invite a user to view my proposal but I can’t find the person I want to invite to my proposal.The invite user function allows the author to search for other users based on first name, surname, organisation, email or username. The level of ‘searchable’ information depends on what level of information the person they are searching for has agreed to have showing in the invite user search list. If you cannot find a NEAF user in the search list, it may be because they have selected the following option on their My Details page:
3. No details (i.e., none of your details will be included in this directory and other users will not be able to invite you to access their proposals.)
If a user has selected to ‘be invisible’ in the directory, you are unable to search for them or invite them to your proposal. If you cannot find the person you wish to invite to view your proposal, you will need to confirm with the person which level they have selected.
A person’s username may not necessarily contain a user’s first name, surname or other identifiable feature. In some cases you may need to contact the user you wish to invite to confirm these details with them.
In order to invite someone to read or edit your proposal, they must have a NEAF account with www.neaf.gov.au.
I would like to invite an existing NEAF user to review my proposal. How do I do this? NEAF has been designed to allow you to invite other NEAF users to review your proposals. Once you’ve developed a proposal, your Proposal Summary page includes an Invite Readers / Editors section at the bottom of the page. To invite a person to review or participate in your proposal as a NEAF user, click on the Invite button at the top of this section and you will be directed to the Invite Users search page. From this page, you can search for your invited reviewers as NEAF users by first name, surname, NEAF username, email address or institution. Please note that some users may have opted to only have their username appear in this search directory, and other users may have chosen not to participate in this directory at all.
Once you’ve located the reviewer or participant you wish to invite, tick the checkbox next to the user and click the level of access you would like to give this user (edit or read-only) and then click Invite. The person you have invited will receive an email outlining your invitation and providing them with the instructions to follow. In your Proposal Summary page, the user will be listed as a ‘Reader / Editor’ with status as ‘????’ until they either decline or accept the invitation. At any stage you can send a message to users you have invited by clicking on the Send Message button next to their details and completing the email pop up box, then clicking Send.
How can I invite someone to review my proposal if I do not have their NEAF details? NEAF Users have three options in relation to what details appear in the Invite Users search directory:
To find a NEAF user in the Invite Users search function, you may find it helpful to use the ‘wild card search’ option. The ‘wild card search’ option allows you to enter letters or components of words on which to search. By putting an asterisk on either side of a word, phrase or part of word (e.g. *Melbourne*, *University of Melbourne*, or *uni*) that you wish to search for, in any searchable field, you can search for any user who has that text available in the search directory.
If you know someone is registered with NEAF but are unable to find their details in the search function, you may need to contact them to obtain their NEAF username.
I would like to invite someone who is not an existing NEAF user to review my proposal. How do I do this? Only registered users of NEAF can be invited to review your proposals using the NEAF invitation feature. To ask someone who is not currently registered with NEAF to review your proposal, you can either send them a PDF version of your proposal, or you will need to arrange for them to register with NEAF with details in the Invite Users search function. You may wish to use the email template below (replacing the terms in brackets [ ] with the appropriate details) to invite them to register:
I’m currently preparing a research ethics proposal using the online National Ethics Application Form (NEAF) and would like to invite you to review my proposal. As my proposal may be best reviewed online using NEAF, I would like to ask you to register as a NEAF user. You can register as a new user by clicking on the link below.
Importantly, you will need to opt to be included in the Invite Users search function in order for me to invite you to review my proposal. Information on this function is available on registration.
Once you’ve registered, please email me your username so that I can invite you to view my proposal through NEAF. If you would prefer not to register with NEAF, please email me and I can send you a PDF version of my current proposal.
Is filling out NEAF all I need to do to complete the research ethics proposal for submission to an HREC? NEAF has been designed as a tool to assist researchers and HRECs in ensuring they address all requirements of the relevant ethical guidelines and legislation such as the National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research (2007). Your HREC and the State/s where your research will be operating may require additional ethical issues to be addressed. It is your responsibility to check with your HREC what requirements they may have other than those already covered in NEAF.
I want to submit my research proposal electronically. How do I do this? If your HREC allows electronic submission of research ethics proposals, you can save your proposal in PDF format on your computer, and then email the PDF document to your HREC using your standard email account.
When I print out my proposal, I get a list of attachments. What are these for? The list of attachments included at the back of your printed research ethics proposal provide you with a checklist of additional documents and issues you may need to add to your research ethics proposal as extra attachments before submitting your proposal to your HREC. Examples of such attachments are copies of advertisements or letters of invitation you may use to recruit participates or participant consent forms.
For additional assistance, check the online HELP section of NEAF, which can be found on the left hand menu of the main menu pages, or in the upper right hand tab section of your proposal summary and question pages.
The NEAF project team appreciates and considers all comments, suggestions and feedback regarding the use of NEAF. Please send any comments, suggestions or feedback to NEAF Assist via:
Phone: 1800 500 983 9AM-5PM Australian Eastern Time
Feedback link https://www.neaf.gov.au/feedback.aspx