Students conducting research involving human subjects

Students conducting studies (or research) on human participants should note that there are various requirements within NTU, and controls under Singapore’s legislations on such activities. These include:

Studies involving humans can include any of the following methods:

  1. Surveys; 
  2. Interviews;
  3. Focus group discussions;
  4. Observations (e.g. image recordings, audio recordings, visual observations);
  5. Obtaining identifiable private information or biospecimens; and/or
  6. Any other forms of interaction or interventions conducted on humans.

(This list is non-exhaustive and non-definitive. The definition of what is considered “human subject” in research can be found here.)

Students conducting studies involving any of the above methodologies are to ensure that you do not breach any of NTU’s policies or contravene Singapore’s legislations, which could lead to academic or criminal offences. 

Please refer to Annex A (bottom of page) for key requirements.

PG students conducting research involving human subjects as part of your research degree (e.g. PhD, M.A./M.Sc. by research) are to submit your ethics applications to NTU-IRB via your supervisor. 

PG students who are leading their own research projects may list themselves as "Student PI" within the IRB application form. This would allow you to initiate, draft, and edit the IRB application. 

UG and PG students conducting research involving human subjects as part of your coursework requirements (e.g. FYP, URECA, PG critical inquiry, etc) should obtain ethics approval for your research via your School's Ethics Review Committee (ERC)

To qualify for review by School ERC, the following are required: 

  1. Meets the IRB’s definition of “Research”;
  2. Does not fall in scope of the Human Biomedical Research Act (HBRA);
  3. Level of risk qualifies for the IRB IRB categories of “Exempt” or “Expedited” for Social, Behavioural, Educational Research (SBER);
  4. Research is not part of a faculty/staff’s study that is subjected to the NTU-IRB’s review and approval.

Notes:

  • Students are to obtain the relevant CITI certification prior to reviews by SERC.
  • SERCs have the discretion to decide if the proposed research should be escalated for review and approval by the NTU-IRB instead. 
  • Refer to our document on School ERC for more details.

 

List of Schools with ERCs

SchoolContact Info
National Institute of Education (NIE)research.integrity.ethics@nie.edu.sg
School of Art, Design & Media (ADM)Contact your School's office
School of Humanities (SOH)soh.ethics@ntu.edu.sg
School of Social Sciences (SSS)psych.ethics@ntu.edu.sg
Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information (WKWSCI)wkwsci-irb@ntu.edu.sg

If you are not from any of the above Schools, please submit your ethics applications to NTU-IRB via your supervisor. 

Non-NTU students (e.g. JC or IP students) conducting research in NTU, for e.g. under the Nanyang Research Programme (NRP), can also obtain ethics approval via the host School's Ethics Review Committee (ERC). Please refer to the "UG and PG degrees by coursework" tab for details on procedures. 

Note: Non-NTU students are not allowed to apply for IRB applications as "Student PI", and should be listed under "Key Personnel" instead. 

For students who wish to conduct studies that are part of your co-curricular activities (e.g. school clubs, interest-based clubs, hall councils, etc) should determine if this is part of academic work, or non-academic work. 

When is Ethics Approval Required?

For students who wish to conduct studies (or research) on humans that are part of your academic work or co-curricular activities (e.g. school clubs, interest-based clubs, hall councils, etc), ethics approval is required. 

Before you can proceed to conduct your studies as part of your co-curricular activities, you are to first obtain the necessary approval from your student organisation’s Advisor or Hall Senior/Faculty-in-Residence. They will then advice on how to submit an application to NTU-IRB. Further details are available here.

[For studies part of your degree programme, please refer to the "UG and PG degree by coursework" tab.]

Please refer to the guidelines in Annex A (bottom of page) on key requirements to follow.

When is Ethics Approval NOT Required?

 Generally, non-academic studies on humans do not require ethics approval. These include surveys and interviews of the following nature:

  • Post-event surveys
  • Surveys on student organisations’ governance, services, facilities, etc.
  • Survey on University's facilities and services (by Students’ Union or Graduate Students’ Association)
  • Post-event interviews or surveys with event participants (e.g., for marketing of future events)
  • Interviews for student organisation/hall committee positions
  • Interviews with senior students/alumni/past students from academic programmes (e.g., URECA) seeking personal experiences and advice from junior members.

Even though ethics approval is not required for the above, please refer to the guidelines in Annex A (bottom of page) when conducting such surveys or interviews.

If there is any intent to publish the results of your study in academic journals or at conferences, please write to the contacts below to enquire before conducting the study.

 

If you have further queries, please contact:

NTU Institutional Review Board: IRB@ntu.edu.sg
Director, Student Affairs Office: D-SAO@ntu.edu.sg

Click here to download a PDF copy of this guide.  

 

Frequently Asked Questions:

 Q1: I am conducting a survey to obtain feedback from students for a School/Hall’s orientation programme. Do I need ethics approval?

No. Ethics approval from either NTU’s Institutional Review Board (IRB) or a School Ethics Review Committee (SERC) is not required if the intention of your survey is not “research”. Studies that do not require ethics approval include service evaluations and/or survey feedback on a particular programme. More examples can be found on the NTU-IRB guidelines here.

However, students are still required to follow the Key Requirements stated in Annex A when conducting these kinds of surveys.

 

Q2: I want to conduct a survey to determine the success of my event. Is this considered research?

No. Post-event surveys are not considered research, hence ethics approval is not required. Please check with your student organisation’s Advisor or Hall Senior/Faculty-in-Residence if you are unsure.

However, students are still required to follow the Key Requirements stated in Annex A when conducting these kinds of surveys.

 

Q3: What are examples of studies that require my Advisor/Hall Senior/Faculty-in-Residence’s approval and/or ethics approval?

 If you are conducting a study that you would like to share with external parties, or if you intend to publish, then ethics approval is likely to be required. This is especially relevant to Graduate Subject Societies (e.g. Economics Society, Psychology Society, etc) who may want to publish their findings on journals/publications.

 If the study is part of your academic research project/requirements (undergraduate or postgraduate), please refer to the NTU-IRB guidelines on “Students conducting research involving human subjectshere.  

 

 

1.  Informed Consent

Informed consent is a process necessary to ensure that the participant fully understands the intent of your study, and voluntarily consents to participate in your study. Informed consent must be obtained from participants prior to the start of your study, and is usually documented with an Informed Consent Form.

Please refer to the NTU-IRB’s guidelines regarding “Informed Consenthere. You may also wish to refer to examples and templates of Informed Consent Forms here.

To ensure that you do not contravene PDPA’s requirements, informed consent from your participant is a must if you are collecting personal data from your participants.

 

2. Data Handling & Storage

NTU takes a serious stance on: (i) protecting and maintaining the confidentiality of personal data; and (ii) their proper handling and storage.

Please ensure that personal data is secured by:

  1. Encryption
  2. Restricted folder access to authorised people
  3. No sharing with unauthorised people (or external parties)
  4. No publishing of personal data in the public domain.

 

Students conducting studies involving humans/ handling personal data should complete the PDPA course on NTULearn to understand the basics of data handling. Please also note NTU’s Data Governance Policy, which requires that all data be properly labelled, stored, and handled according to its data classification.