Ethics Review of Projects

Departmental Ethics Review Committee (DERC) is the department-level committee that reviews social, behavioural and educational research (SBER) involving human participants that are of minimal risk.Note 1

All other SBER that are above minimal risk and all human biomedical research (HBR) as defined under section 3 of the Human Biomedical Research Act (HBRA) must be reviewed by NUS-IRB.Note 2

DERC handles two types of minimal-risk SBER applications: 1) Student SBER applications and 2) Faculty SBER Exemption applications.

(1) Student SBER applications. These are applications for student SBER projects submitted by the student investigator as PI. Undergraduate and graduate students may apply. The faculty supervisor must be included as co-P. See Ethics Review of Student Research, Section 2.1, for conditions that may qualify a student project for a Student SBER application. Please submit:

(2) Faculty SBER Exemption applications. These are applications submitted by faculty as PI for SBER research that qualify for Exemption. Graduate student may apply as PI, but the faculty supervisor must be included as co-PI. See Ethics Review of Faculty Research by DERC, Section 2.1, for conditions that may qualify a faculty research for a Faculty SBER Exemption application. Please submit:

If an applicant wishes to make changes to an application previously approved by DERC, submit:

Submit all documents in a single PDF or Word file by email to Ms Chan Mei Xin (psycmx@nus.edu.sg) in the Psychology General Office. For student applications, the supervisor must be copied in the email.

Expected turnaround is 2 weeks. That is, DERC aims to complete a review and inform applicants of the outcome within 2 weeks, subject to circumstances (e.g. number of submissions).

Applicants must begin the project only after receiving approval from DERC. If the application is considered to be above minimal risk, DERC may recommend it for NUS-IRB review. All applications to NUS-IRB must be submitted through iRIMS-IRB. For submission and instructions, visit http://nus.edu.sg/research/irb/irims. NUS faculty and graduate students can apply as Principal Investigator (PI). NUS undergraduates are not permitted to apply as PI. Hence, for undergraduate student projects (e.g. HT projects), the supervisor should apply as PI, with the student listed as Co-Investigator. NUS undergraduate students are required to first apply for access to iRIMS-IRB. They can apply for access by filling up the Account Creation Request Form. Access will be granted within 3 working days of request.

For some applications, DERC may suggest changes to keep the project at minimal risk so that the applicant may begin the project sooner instead of sending the application to NUS-IRB. Applicants are free to accept or decline the suggestions.

Research projects approved only by DERC are not publishable in journals that require institutional ethics approval. DERC-approval is not an institutional ethics approval. To publish DERC-approved projects in these journals, the applicant should seek a statement of endorsement from NUS-IRB. Submit all DERC application materials to Ms Chan Mei Xin (psycmx@nus.edu.sg), requesting NUS-IRB to issue a statement of endorsement. NUS-IRB will conduct an independent review of the application.

Additional considerations

Research involving the use of lucky draws in lieu of reimbursement for participation in the study should fulfil the criteria as stated in the NUS-IRB’s guidelines for lucky draws. See NUS-IRB Guidelines for Lucky Draws.

Other information concerning the submission of student applications, faculty exemption applications, and amendment applications can be found in Ethics Review of Student Research.

For general principles and guidelines concerning data ownership and applications in collaborative research involving NUS faculty and non-NUS researchers, see Guidelines for DERC Application and Data Ownership for Collaborative Research.

NUS students 18 years old and above do not require parental consent to participate in studies. Non-NUS individuals between 18 and 20 years old require parental consent but the applicants may apply to waive the requirement for parental consent if the study is of minimal-risk. However, DERC reserves the right to determine whether the study is of minimal-risk and consequentially whether parental consent is required.

Grant Considerations

If a student SBER application includes the faculty supervisor’s grant for funding purposes, the faculty is advised to check whether his/her grant can be used to fund the student’s project.

Please note that the relevant funding agency should be acknowledged in any publication that result from the use of the grant. More details can be found at http://www.nus.edu.sg/research/research-management/publications-and-acknowledgement

DERC does not approve or regulate the use of grants. DERC focuses only on research ethics. An approval of your application by DERC is not an approval on the use of your grant. It is the responsibility of the faculty supervisor to ensure proper use of the grant.


Note 1: Risk is considered minimal where the probability and magnitude of harm or discomfort anticipated in the research are not greater, in and of themselves, than those ordinarily encountered in daily life or during the performance of routine physical or psychological examinations or tests (NUS-GUIDE-018).

Note 2: HBR is defined as any research that is intended to study: (a) the prevention, prognostication, diagnosis or alleviation of any disease, disorder or injury affecting the human body; (b) the restoration, maintenance or promotion of the aesthetic appearance of human individuals through clinical procedures or techniques; or (c) the performance or endurance of human individuals.