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This content is taken from the Griffith University & Deakin University's online course, Why Ethics Matter: Ethical Research. Join the course to learn more.
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Application submitted. What now?

Waiting for a response after submitting your ethics application can be nerve wracking. What are the possible outcomes?

Let’s take a brief look at the possible outcomes of an Ethics Review?


If your application needs to be completely resubmitted, it’s an indication there are frequent or serious gaps and flaws in your proposal. Further review will be suspended until a major revision can be carried out. Take heart. Usually less than 5% of applications require resubmission and the HREC are bound to provide detailed guidance on what should be included in your resubmitted application.

Provisional approval

This indicates some low level gaps and flaws are present. Provisional approval means your application has been approved in principle, however your research must not start until the requirements have been addressed.

Provisional approval becomes ‘conditional’ (see below) when most of the conditions are met. Some research ethics committees don’t have an equivalent to provisional approval. In these cases, it would be treated as a resubmission.

Conditional approval

If your application receives ‘conditional approval’, it means there are a few gaps and flaws, however your research can start. In this instance you are permitted to address the conditions while your research is under-way. Conditional approvals become full approvals when all of the conditions have been met.

Full approval

Congratulations! All conditions have been addressed and your research can start or continue without further delay.

Making changes after approval?

An ethics approval is very specific. It only covers the aims, time frame, methods, materials, participants and places described in your application. Research is a dynamic activity in a dynamic environment. The reality is, most projects will require some changes.

Before making any change to the approved research (such as its aims, methods, participants, duration, etc) you will most likely need to submit a variation request and have this approved first.

If you are working with an institution or organisation, always check what the requirements are.

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This article is from the free online course:

Why Ethics Matter: Ethical Research

Griffith University