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 psychology undergraduate teaching team staff.
No proper training in psychology and its ethical underpinnings is complete without understanding the perspective of research participants. Providing undergraduate 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.
The REP has three main aims:
- To give undergraduate psychology students an understanding of how empirical psychology research is conducted by participating in research projects conducted within MSPS.
- To give fourth-year and postgraduate students appropriate training in research ethics and management, by conducting research with appropriate academic supervision.
- To provide MSPS staff and research students an avenue for recruiting research participants.
Information For Undergraduate Students (REP Participants)
The REP provides undergraduate 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 certain undergraduate psychology subjects may participate in up to 5 hours of REP research per semester in exchange for course credit. Students participating in first-year “REP1” projects are awarded 1% course credit per hour, and students participating in second-year “REP2” projects are awarded 2% per hour. The maximum course credit any student can receive for participating in the REP is 5% per subject (i.e., equivalent to 5 hours’ participation in REP1 or 2.5 hours in REP2).
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 REP project or participation is compulsory for any student.
All REP projects must be approved by the relevant University of Melbourne Office of Research Ethics and Integrity (OREI) committee and approved projects are advertised at https://unimelb.sona-systems.com. No other advertisements are permitted. While the School 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 are credited by the responsible researcher via SONA systems as soon as possible after completing their participation.
If a researcher fails to attend 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. If a participant does not attend a scheduled appointment or does not complete an REP study they have signed up for, the REP credit advertised for that study will 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 written assessment. 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 relevant undergraduate subject manuals.
Information for Staff and Research Students (REP Researchers)
Researchers wishing to access the REP must:
- 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);
- have approval from the relevant University of Melbourne OREI committee to recruit participants via the REP;
- create an REP study on the SONA systems website (see below) and have it approved by the REP admin-team/convenor;
- 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 REPemail@example.com.
How to get access to the REP as a researcher:
If you do not have an existing REP researcher profile:
- Send an email to REPfirstname.lastname@example.org 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
- You will be advised by email when your REP researcher profile has been created
- 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:
Rules for conduct of REP research projects
Researchers can access the following number of REP hours per undergraduate subject with an REP component:
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 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|
In some cases, researchers listed on an REP study may teach into the corresponding undergraduate psychology subject and may therefore have a dependent relationship with study participants. In such cases, 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 if they choose to 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.
Researchers are not permitted to offer participants any further incentives (e.g., payment2) in REP projects, unless all of the following are true:
2MSPS encourages the use of gift vouchers rather than cash for participant payments
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.
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 multiple semesters, a preliminary report should be completed at the end of each semester and updated each semester. Existing summary reports should be updated by once again completing the online form (http://go.unimelb.edu.au/7pjj) with “update” added to the end of the study title.
|REP||Research Experience Program|
|MSPS||Melbourne School of Psychological Sciences|
|OREI||Office of Research Ethics and Integrity|
|PLS||Plain Language Statement|
|SONA||Web platform used to administer the REP|