Research Experience Program (REP) Policy

This REP policy was established and is regularly reviewed by the Research and Research Training Committee within the Melbourne School of Psychological Sciences (MSPS) and by the MSPS Chair of Ethics. The current guidelines are designed to ensure maximum benefit and protection for researchers and participants. The REP is overseen by the REP Convenor independently of the first-year psychology teaching team.

Background

No proper training in psychology and its ethical underpinnings is complete without understanding the perspective of research participants. Providing first-year students with the opportunity to participate in research projects illuminates aspects of the research process that may not be obvious from other course content. The REP gives students a first-hand understanding of the importance of research participants being freely able to consent to participate in research, having the option of withdrawing their consent, having access to support and further information in case of any concerns, and being fully debriefed about the aims and rationale of the research project.

Aims

The REP has three main aims:

  1. To give first-year psychology students an understanding of how empirical psychology research is conducted by participating in research projects conducted within MSPS.
  2. To give postgraduate and fourth-year students appropriate training in research ethics and management, by conducting research with appropriate academic supervision.
  3. To provide MSPS staff and research students an avenue for recruiting research participants.

Information For First-Year Students (REP Participants)

The REP provides first-year psychology students with a "participant-eye-view" of how psychology research is conducted, ensuring that the privacy and integrity of participants is respected. Students are given: (i) a choice of projects from a large set, (ii) appropriate information for choosing projects, and providing informed consent, (iii) an alternative if they choose not to take part, (iv) appropriate ways of gaining support if needed, (v) appropriate follow-up information and feedback.

Participating in the REP is entirely optional. Students enrolled in both first-year psychology subjects may participate in 5 hours of research participation per semester (i.e., 10 hours in total during first-year). Students who choose to participate in the REP will be awarded 1% course credit per hour of research participation completed, up to a maximum of 5% per semester. Note that students are not eligible for additional course credit beyond 5 hours (5%) per semester.

MSPS emphasizes the importance of obtaining a range of research experiences. Thus, students should aim to participate in REP projects on a variety of topics and that use a range of different methods (e.g., surveys/questionnaires, perceptual/cognitive tasks, other experimental tasks, experience sampling/diary methods).

No individual project or participation is compulsory for any student.

Students are provided with short descriptions of REP projects, through advertisements approved by the relevant University of Melbourne Office of Research Ethics and Integrity (OREI) committee.

Approved projects are advertised at https://unimelb.sona-systems.com. No other advertisements are permitted. While MSPS endeavours to make REP projects available throughout the semester, availability of projects may vary over time.

Students participating in the REP sign-up for a specific study and, where relevant, select a specific time-slot to complete the study. Students may contact the responsible researcher(s) to arrange an alternate time, although no guarantees are made. Students are credited by the responsible researcher via SONA systems as soon as possible after completing their participation.

If it happens that a researcher does not keep a scheduled appointment, the REP credit advertised for that study should be awarded to the participant. In practice, this rarely occurs, but if it happens the participant should contact the REP Convenor. On the other hand, if a participant does not attend a scheduled appointment or does not complete a study to which they signed up, the REP credit advertised for that study will normally not be awarded to the participant, other than in exceptional circumstances and in consultation with the REP Convenor.

Students who do not wish to participate in the REP but would like to be eligible for 5% course credit may contact the REP convenor to arrange an alternative assessment task. Students wishing to make use of this alternative provision must contact the REP convener within the first 4 weeks of semester. Requests for alternative assessment submitted after this date will not be considered. Students who have concerns about participating in research through the REP may contact the REP Convenor. This provision is drawn to students’ attention in the first week of semester and is clearly stated in the first-year course manuals.

Information for Staff and Research Students (REP Researchers)

Researchers wishing to access the REP must:

  1. follow principles of ethical research as stated in the National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research (available at http://go.unimelb.edu.au/4pjj);
  2. have approval from the relevant University of Melbourne OREI committee to recruit participants via the REP;
  3. create an REP study on the SONA systems website (see below) and have it approved by the REP admin-team/convenor;
  4. complete a summary report communicating their (preliminary) research findings in plain language to REP participants at the end of each semester (see below).

MSPS research students may apply to access the REP if they comply with the above and are supervised by an MSPS academic staff member who accepts responsibility as “Principal Investigator”. REP studies are approved for one semester and researchers wishing to extend existing studies across semesters will need to request approval to do so by emailing REP-psych@unimelb.edu.au.

How to get access to the REP as a researcher:

If you do not have an existing REP researcher profile:

  1. Send an email to REP-psych@unimelb.edu.au with the following info:
    • your University of Melbourne username
    • your University of Melbourne staff/student ID number
    • your full name
    • your University of Melbourne email address
    • if you are a student, your primary supervisor's name
  2. You will be advised by email when your REP researcher profile has been created
  3. Visit https://unimelb.sona-systems.com to access the REP portal where you can create new studies, administer existing studies, assign credits to participants, etc.

If you already have an existing REP researcher profile:

  1. Go to https://unimelb.sona-systems.com to create new REP studies, administer existing studies, assign credits to participants, etc.
  2. If you require assistance with accessing the REP portal, please email REP-psych@unimelb.edu.au.

Rules for conduct of REP research projects

REP Quotas

Researchers can access the following number of REP hours per semester:

  • academic staff1 , PhD and MPhil students: 100 REP hours per semester
  • fourth-year and MPsych students: 80 REP hours per semester
Researchers may combine their REP hours to run larger studies as long as all researchers involved are listed as study investigators on the study’s approved ethics application.

1Honorary staff members are not eligible to access the REP, unless approved in writing by the MSPS Head of School. The only exceptions are honorary staff who have internal supervisor status within the MSPS, which applies to most “resident honoraries” and “honorary partners”. If unsure, please contact the REP Convenor to seek clarification.

Time involvement per project:

To achieve variety across the 5 hours of participation, REP projects should be no longer than 3 hours (unless approved by the REP coordinator) and REP projects that are longer than 1 hour should ideally combine multiple methods.

Risks to participants

REP studies should avoid/minimise risk to student participants wherever possible, and appropriate strategies should be in place to deal with any adverse circumstances arising from any such risks. High risk projects are not suitable for the REP. Any risk to participants must be justified in the relevant ethics application.

Conflicts of interest

If researchers listed on an REP study teach into a first-year psychology course, the researchers are expected to clearly indicate how they will deal with conflicts of interest. This applies to lecturers and tutors (Note: tutors may not advertise or recruit in lab classes). Any dependency needs to be stated in the PLS with an explicit indication that students will not be penalised in any way if they do not participate or they withdraw from a study after consenting to participate.

Withdrawal from projects

The PLS must make clear that participants have the right to withdraw at any stage. Students who withdraw their participation after partially completing a project (in good faith) should still receive REP credit(s) on a pro-rata basis or as indicated in the PLS.

Incentives

Researchers are not permitted to offer further incentives to participants (e.g., payment2) for REP projects, unless all of the following conditions are satisfied:

  • There is a scientific justification for including additional incentives in the study. For example, a study investigating the effects of monetary incentives on decision-making may be conducted within the REP.
  • The study’s ethics application must justify the need to include additional incentives in the REP study and this must be approved by the relevant ethics committee.
  • The additional incentive must not be mentioned in the REP advertisement to avoid excessive inducement and to ensure other REP studies are not disadvantaged.
  • To avoid inducement, the maximum incentive should be no more than 30% of the current minimum hourly wage, or equivalent.
  • The REP convenor will independently review applications for REP studies that request to include an additional (monetary) incentive to ensure they are suitable and reserves the right to reject such applications if deemed inappropriate for the REP.

2MSPS encourages the use of gift vouchers rather than cash for participant payments

Support

If an adverse event occurs during or after an REP study, the Principal Researcher is responsible for providing support and/or counselling to participants. For fourth-year or postgraduate student projects, the responsible researcher must be the student’s primary supervisor. Student researchers should not provide support or counselling to REP participants. Concerns/complaints about the ethical conduct of an REP study should be directed to the relevant committee within the University of Melbourne OREI.

Referral

The PLS and/or Debriefing Statement must include contact information for referral in case a participant has concerns arising from their involvement in an REP study. In the first instance, the supervisor (or Principal Investigator) should communicate with the participant and arrange a referral. If the project has clinical implications and the supervisor is not a clinician, a clinician’s name and contact details should be included in the PLS and/or Debriefing Statement.

End of semester summary report

At the end of each semester, the Principal Investigator must ensure that a summary report of (preliminary) findings is completed for all their REP studies using an online form available at http://go.unimelb.edu.au/7pjj. Summary reports will be made available to REP participants at the following webpage: http://go.unimelb.edu.au/3pjj. For REP studies that run across semesters, a preliminary report should be completed at the end of Semester 1 and then updated at the end of Semester 2. Existing summary reports should be updated by completing the online form (http://go.unimelb.edu.au/7pjj) again with “Semester 2 update” added to the end of the study title.

Abbreviations

REPResearch Experience Program
MSPSMelbourne School of Psychological Sciences
OREIOffice of Research Ethics and Integrity
SONAWeb platform used to administer the REP

Relevant contacts

REP enquiries: REP-psych@unimelb.edu.au

REP Convenor: Dr Pete Koval (p.koval@unimelb.edu.au)

MSPS Chair of ethics: Associate Professor Hinze Hogendoorn (hhogendoorn@unimelb.edu.au)