The Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research defines research as “original investigation undertaken to gain knowledge, understanding and insight”. In terms of illustrating what the term ‘research’ can cover, the Code and the National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research quote the following definition for research:
‘Research’… includes work of direct relevance to the needs of commerce, industry, and to the public and voluntary sectors; scholarship; the invention and generation of ideas, images, performances, artefacts including design, where these lead to new or substantially improved insights; and the use of existing knowledge in experimental development to produce new or substantially improved materials, devices, products and processes, including design and construction. It excludes routine testing and routine analysis of materials, components and processes such as for the maintenance of national standards, as distinct from the development of new analytical techniques. It also excludes the development of teaching materials that do not embody original research.
The National Statement defines human research as being “conducted with or about people, or their data or tissue”. Human participation in research is therefore to be understood broadly, to include the involvement of human beings through:
- taking part in surveys, interviews or focus groups;
- undergoing psychological, physiological or medical testing or treatment;
- being observed by researchers;
- researchers having access to their personal documents or other materials;
- the collection and use of their body organs, tissues or fluids (eg: skin, blood, urine, saliva, hair, bones, tumour and other biopsy specimens) or their exhaled breath;
- access to their information (in individually identifiable, re-identifiable or non-identifiable form) as part of an existing published or unpublished source or database.