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Research overview

Australia has a reputation for delivering high-quality development assistance. As we adapt to the global impact of COVID-19 and deliver the Australian Government's Partnerships for Recovery: Australia's COVID-19 Development Response, encouraging ethical practice and a culture of ethical inquiry within the sector is key to realising our health security, economic recovery and stability priorities.

While existing international and national codes and frameworks set the general benchmark for ethical research across universities, industry and government in Australia, the settings that surround DFAT's research are unique. This is because they involve working with diverse counterparts and communities, including vulnerable or ‘high risk‘ populations, in circumstances that can give rise to power imbalances. The additional ethical considerations involved in these research settings means robust ethical practice is imperative to ensure research activities adhere at a very minimum to the fundamental principle of ‘do no harm'.

Guidance note

DFAT has worked in partnership with the Research for Development Impact Network (RDI Network) in developing the Ethical Research and Evaluation Guidance Note and Checklist. The Guidance Note specifically sets out the requirements for ethical practice in research and evaluation. It aligns and reinforces DFAT's existing policies related to international development management, conduct and risk management, and embeds the existing international and national codes and frameworks set within the four Ethical Principles.

The Guidance Note applies to all DFAT-funded activities, both Official Development Assistance (ODA) and non-ODA investments, that involve research or evaluation with human participants. It applies regardless of the value of the investment or the specific funding mechanism and encompasses all DFAT-funded activities implemented by or through:

  • other Australian Government and public sector agencies
  • private sector and civil society organisations (including contractors and subcontractors, Australian Volunteers International, non-government and civil society partnerships; and Public Private Partnerships)

The Guidance therefore applies to all organisations and individuals who deliver DFAT business, as well as sub-contractors who are engaged by a funded partner to perform research or evaluation.

DFAT staff will work with partners to avoid duplication or unnecessary additional assessment, compliance and management planning requirements, in order to adhere to the Principles. However, where researchers are working in a country that is not their own, ensuring cultural competence is especially important. Australia/international partners should be guided by local partners to reinforce the importance of research being delivered in line with locally approval processes, and foreign researchers are subject to domestic legislative requirements in our partner countries.

Further information

The RDI Network has developed further resources to assist anyone who commissions, manages and implements research and evaluation - at no cost. The information available includes easy to follow guides to build compliancy and capacity to ensure partners deliver ethical practice with integrity.


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