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Introduction to the Standards

The National Ethics Advisory Committee – Kāhui Matatika o te Motu (NEAC) issues the National Ethical Standards for Health and Disability Research and Quality Improvement (the Standards) in line with its statutory functions. In particular, the Standards fulfil NEAC’s statutory obligation to ‘determine nationally consistent ethical standards across the health sector’ (New Zealand Public Health and Disability Act 2000).

These standards set out the ethical requirements that:

  • researchers[1] must meet or exceed when undertaking health and disability research and
  • health service providers and disability service providers[2] must meet or exceed when conducting quality improvement activities.

The Standards apply whether or not research or quality improvement activities require review by an ethics committee.

The key objectives of the Standards are to:

  • safeguard the rights and interests of participants in research and quality improvement
  • promote high-quality ethical research for social, cultural and economic wellbeing
  • reflect the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi
  • foster awareness of ethical principles and practices among health care providers, researchers and the wider community
  • help researchers and improvement practitioners think through and take responsibility for the ethical issues in their studies
  • help researchers and improvement practitioners give due consideration to local and national community views and perspectives
  • support the consistent ethical review of health and disability research and quality improvement
  • protect and reassure the community.

The Standards are primarily aimed at researchers, because researchers have the main responsibility for conducting ethical research. Increasingly, health research and quality improvement involve responsibilities that are broader, extending to institutions and organisations. The Standards primarily use the term ‘Researcher’ throughout when referring to corresponding responsibilities, however these Standards use the term Researcher broadly, intending to address all those responsible for the conduct of health and disability research, quality improvement activities, data and tissue governance, and any other activity described in the Standards.

They will also be of interest to others with a role or interest in health and disability research, including review bodies, industry, custodians, clinical managers or individuals with institutional oversight of research, government departments and research participants (individuals and communities).

The Standards have been informed by specific documents and statements in Aotearoa New Zealand, and by international ethical guidelines (see ‘Bibliography’). They do not provide detailed guidance on every possible research situation. Where other guidelines and codes of practice are consistent with the Standards, we recommend that researchers refer to them for additional ethical guidance on how to meet the Standards. The Standards assume that researchers are familiar with international and domestic ethical guidance materials relevant to their area of research (see ‘Other ethical guidance documents’ for links to some of these resources).


[1] The Standards primarily use the term ‘Researcher’ throughout when referring to corresponding responsibilities, however it should be understood that these Standards use the term Researcher broadly, intending to address all those responsible for the conduct of health and disability research, quality improvement activities, data and tissue governance, and any other activity described in the Standards.

[2] Health service providers include health service workers, nurses, clinicians and any person involved in quality improvement.