Research Ethics and Integrity

The Human Sciences Research Council is committed to research that is relevant and trustworthy. The pursuit of research excellence and the fulfilment of our responsibilities to participants in research, research users, funders, and the wider community require high standards of integrity. To this effect, the HSRC Board approved a formal policy on research integrity in 2011.

This policy is intended to help promote and support good research practice, but also touches on aspects of research misconduct that should not be allowed. The policy furthermore provides for the appointment of a Research Integrity Officer (RIO) by the CEO.

Research Ethics Committee

Most HSRC research involves human participants. The bulk of the information and data gathered is likely to be of a personal nature. Researchers and the research leadership in the HSRC are fully aware of ethical considerations related to research with human participants, and these concerns are built into planning and review processes of all research proposals. The performance, execution and completion of research projects are also carefully monitored to make sure that HSRC researchers and all project collaborators adhere to the highest ethical standards. The HSRC drew up a Research Code in 1987, which was amended in 1993, further revised in 1997 and published as a Code of Research Ethics.

In 2006 the Code of Research Ethics replaced the 1998 Code of Business Ethics. In the Code of Ethics the HSRC Board members and employees commit themselves to a code of ethical behaviour that accords with the HSRC's status, values, principles and obligations. A HSRC Research Ethics Committee (REC) was established on 27 November 2002.  The HSRC REC is registered with the South African National Health Research Ethics Council of the SA National Department of Health (NHREC No 290808-015) and also has US OHRP Federal-wide Assurance (FWA) accreditation (FWA 00006347, IRB No. 00003962).

From 2003 all HSRC researchers are required to submit all research applications for REC approval before commencement of research. Ethics approval is given to project proposals for a period of a year, after which the PI must apply for a renewal/recertification. Exemptions from ethics review must be applied for in advance if studies meet the criteria for exemption, for example reviews and analyses of data or materials that are freely available in the public domain, and conference commissions (except where they involve primary research). Provided there is no more suitable or eligible REC in South Africa, and subject to terms and conditions including an administration fee, the HSRC REC may conduct ethics review of research proposals submitted by researchers not employed by or contracted to the HSRC.

Although it is mandatory that all research with human participants be ethically approved before data collection commences, the REC has processes in place to expedite the approval of certain types of research if justified by the applicant. Research which constitutes an extension of a study already approved by the REC, may qualify for a class approval under certain conditions. All amendments and changes to approved protocols must be approved by the REC before they are implemented. Some interventional studies that are ethically reviewed by the HSRC REC may be regarded as clinical trials. All South African clinical trials must be registered with the South African National Clinical Trials Register (SANCTR). The definition of clinical trials is quite broad, and can be found at here.

Given the HSRC REC’s registration with the NHREC, investigators responsible for clinical trials reviewed and approved by the REC are required to to register such trials with the SANCTR, as outlined at here, or in the attached “Terms of Reference” of the HSRC REC. The overarching ethics guidance for the HSRC is the SA NHREC Department of Health’s (2015) Ethics in Health Research: Principles, Processes and Structures. For clinical trials, the National Department of Health (2006) South African Good Clinical Practice Guidelines apply. Where relevant, the SA MRC Guidelines and major international guidance documents such as the CIOMS guidelines, the most recent version of the Declaration of Helsinki and the UNESCO guidelines might apply. The Committee meets once a month and functions according to its Terms of Reference and a standard Operating Procedure. 

Research Ethics Committee

HSRC Ethics Committee Membership List

Term of Office from 01 November 2021 until 31 October 2024 The following document contains the internal and external HSRC Ethics Committee membership list (as on 2021)

Documentation and meeting dates


The following responsibilities are entrusted to the RIOs for the 2017 calendar year:

  • Promoting the responsible conduct of research through awareness raising and capacity building activities, in collaboration with relevant resource persons as well as research and support units in the HSRC
  • Ensuring that there are procedures and systems in place to receive, appropriately assess and correctly refer allegations of research misconduct
  • [Download the statement here] Taking responsibility for record-keeping and reporting of possible cases of research misconduct as may be required by the HSRC as well as local and international funders, including the Department of Health and Human Services of the United States of America
  • Ensuring that confidential information made available to the RIO is treated with discretion and in accordance with principles outlined in the policy on research integrity



Research integrity officers Khutso Sithole, tel +27 (0)12 302 2012 Dr Njeri Wabiri, tel +27 (0)12 302 2035 Email:

Ethics Hotline

The HSRC is committed to fraud prevention. If you're aware of any suspicious activity, take either of the below actions. Your contribution will remain anonymous. 

Free Call number - Fraud Hotline:  0800 205 138

Free Call number - Research Ethics Hotline: 0800 212 123  

SMS: 30916



Mobile application: Can be downloaded from the Google Play store or Apple App store.

Postal: PO Box 10512, Centurion, 0046

Fax: 086 726 1681 

Files for download

All our Ethics documents can be accessed via our One Drive link here.