Introducing the SACAP REC

This page introduces the role of Research Ethics Committees in South Africa, and more specifically, the South African College of Applied Psychology (SACAP) Research Ethics Committee (REC). It aims to explain this committee’s institutional functions and responsibilities and situates it within the broader legislative context of health-related research in South Africa. Additionally, this section, outlines the procedures to follow, should students, staff and associated members of SACAP who wish to undertake research that recruits either internal or external participants, including requests to carry out research with the SACAP student or staff body.

The primary mandate of a REC is to protect the interests, rights and welfare of research participants who volunteer to take part in research. Further to this, the SACAP REC undertakes a comprehensive assessment of the proposed research’s scientific validity, methodological rigour, and ethical implications. This evaluation extends to considerations not only for participants but also for researchers, organisations and the broader community impacted by the research. Through an impartial and objective review, a REC ensures that all approved research upholds the highest standards as dictated by both international and national ethical guidelines governing research involving human participants.

Established in 2016 under the auspices of Section 73 of the National Health Act, the SACAP REC operates in accordance with the directive that all entities, including institutions, engaged in health-related research establish or have access to an ethics committee registered with the National Health Research Ethics Council (NHREC).

Conducting Research at SACAP

The SACAP REC is entrusted with evaluating student research conducted within postgraduate programmes. The SACAP REC comprises predominately SACAP academic staff as well as external members with expertise in community perspectives, legal and research ethics. Functioning as an independent entity within the institution, this committee exercises ethical oversight over research undertakings by both internal and external researchers. Internal researchers encompass students, staff, and affiliated members of SACAP, undertaking projects involving either internal or external participants. External researchers, on the other hand, are those who seek access to the wider SACAP community for their research endeavours.

The SACAP REC acknowledges ethical clearance obtained from other NHREC-registered ethics committees. Nevertheless, it retains the prerogative to assess and delineate the parameters under which research is to be conducted within the SACAP community. Moreover, the SACAP REC extends its purview to evaluate and endorse research projects unrelated to SACAP, if these endeavours have obtained ethical clearance in accordance with the provisions outlined in Section 73 of the National Health Act.

Researchers, both internal and external are therefore requested to address any research queries to the SACAP REC Office on [email protected]. Please refer to the important documents listed below for further information.

Rights of Research Participants

As a research participant in a research study, you have the following inherent rights:

1. To decide whether you would like to participant without feeling pressured.

2. To refuse to participate in the study or to withdraw your participation any time after you begin the study.

3. To be fully informed about who is conducting the study and for what purpose, what it is investigating and what you will be asked to do if you agree to participate.

4. To be told about the reasonably foreseeable risks of participating and what steps have been taken to reduce those risks.

5. To have the potential benefits of the study explained to you.

6. To be told about any costs associated with participating and whether you will be compensated.

7. To be told how the researchers will protect your identity or keep the information you share confidential.

8. To be told who will have access to information collected about you and how the data will be responsibly managed, from collection until it is permanently destroyed.

9. To be told whom to contact with questions about the research and about your rights as a research participant.

10. To be told how you can access free help, should you be negatively affected because of participating in the research.

It is your right to have all these elements of a research study explained to you and all your questions answered before you agree to provide your consent to participate. You are entitled to a document explaining these aspects in case you have questions later.

If you have further questions about your rights as a research participant or have concerns about how a SACAP REC approved study is being conducted, please contact the SACAP REC Office on [email protected].

Whistleblowing and Upholding Research Ethics:

If you feel that your rights as a research participant have not been upheld, compromised, or if you have other concerns regarding to the SACAP REC or a SACAP REC approved study, you are asked to lodge a complaint to report these issues using the whistle-blower form.

Whistleblowing in the context of research ethics involves reporting alleged misconduct, fraud, maladministration, and non-adherence to approved research procedures, guidelines or policies occurring at the institution. You may choose to remain anonymous when lodging such complaints. For more information on whistleblowing and how to lodge a complaint, and what procedure will be followed, please visit the whistleblowing page HERE

Other Documentation:

No. 61 of 2003 National Health Act, 2004

Ethics in Health Research Principles, Processes and Structures (DoH, 2015)

SACAP REC Terms of Reference

SACAP Research Ethics Policy

SOP 1 – The Establishment of SOPs

SOP 2 – The Selection, Appointment and Functioning of REC Members

SOP 3 – The Protocol Review Process

SOP 4 – Proposal Applications and Decisions

SOP 5 – Research Involving Minors

SOP 6 – Preparation of Sittings and Sitting Procedures

SOP 7 – Decision Appeal Process

SOP 8 – Annual Progress and Monitoring Reports

SOP 9 – Working with Vulnerable Persons or Populations

SOP 10 – Research Participants Right to Privacy and Confidentiality

SOP 11 – Data Management Collection and Storage

SOP 12 – Protocol Amendment Procedures

SOP 13 – Informed Consent

SOP 14 – Adverse Events Serious Adverse Events and Unanticipated Problems

SOP 15 – Complaints Procedure

SOP 16 – Whistle-Blowing Pertaining to Research

SOP 17 – Risk Assessment

SOP 18 – Distress Protocols for Research on Sensitive Topics

SOP 19 – Scientific Review Committee (SRC)

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