University Research and Ethics Committee (UREC)

Quality research is of high importance to NUS and its teaching programmes. Research informs teaching and is integral to academic staff promotion, notwithstanding its potential to further the academic careers of both staff and students alike.

To ensure that all research is conducted in an environment that is safe for researchers and participants, NUS established the University Research and Ethics Committee (UREC) to provide oversight and guidance for all local and foreign researchers, including postgraduate students wishing to undertake research in which humans may be used as participants. The Committee is headed by the Vice Chancellor and supported by the Deputy Vice Chancellor together with all NUS deans, directors and professors.

Completion of the ethics checklist will help in deciding whether ethical issues may arise.

Ethical principles governing research

UREC emphasizes eight ethical principles governing research and teaching activities if humans are involved. In this case, the research subjects must be assured:

  1. That informed and voluntary consent is freely given (and can subsequently be withdrawn without penalty).
  2. That of confidentiality, privacy and anonymity (respect for rights and confidentiality and preservation of anonymity).
  3. That there is a minimization of physical, emotional, cultural and social harm, or a minimization of the risk of it.
  4. That of cultural and social sensitivity.
  5. That there is no deceit.
  6. That of respect for intellectual and cultural property ownership is preserved/observed.
  7. That there is avoidance of conflict of interest.
  8. That the research is not trivial (i.e. that its design enables realistic objectives that can be adequately met).

When is UREC approval necessary?

Researchers must obtain ethical approval:

  • If they involve human beings or animals or the environment as subjects participants of your research.
  • If the research can potentially harm (physically, emotionally, socially, etc.) either humans or animals or the environment.
  • If genetic modification of plants, animals or humans is involved.

In addition, researchers need to apply for ethics clearance and approval if any of the following methods are involved:

  • Questionnaires, focus groups, interviews
  • Clinical trials
  • Sampling of bodily tissues or fluids, soil and/or environmental substances
  • Application of ‘treatments’ or exercises to people or animals
  • Some observational studies
  • Personal and non-public information use
  • Use of property or material which is culturally, historically or spiritually significant.

Applying for UREC funding

The Centre for Samoan Studies (CSS) administers the University Research Fund that is accessible to all NUS staff to undertake research projects within Samoa and American Samoa. UREC funding applications are capped at WST10,000.00 per research application.

Collaborating with the Centre for Samoan Studies

The Centre for Samoan Studies can assist researchers on a collaborative basis whereby the research is mutually beneficial to both CSS and researcher.

UREC processes and requirements

All research in Samoa involving human participants must receive UREC approval prior to commencement. The process for gaining ethics approval is outlined in Section 2.3 of the NUS UREC policy and summarized in Figure 1 below.


Figure 1 Standard UREC process and requirements

Figure 1 Standard UREC process and requirements


Figure 1 presents the standard UREC process, which covers application requirements, submissions and approval procedures, and reporting obligations for all approved research. The application process requires all researchers to complete the UREC ethics checklist and proposal template. Successful applicants receive three installments across the duration of their project and are required to submit a progress and final report.

UREC processes and procedures focus on the principles of research ethics rather than the overall design of the research project. However, where the research design appears unlikely to generate useful conclusions or meet its objectives, the impact of the research on participants and potential future research using similar participants will be taken into consideration.

Academic or scientific research work

Individuals seeking to come to Samoa under the auspices of the NUS to conduct academic or scientific research must have a Temporary Resident Permit for Academic or Scientific Research before entering Samoa. Applications for a Research permit cost $600 for the principal applicant and $300 for each dependent. Applicants must supply the following documentation to the Samoa Immigration Division of the Ministry of the Prime Minister and Cabinet:

  • A passport valid for a minimum of six months after the intended period of stay in Samoa for the principal applicant and any dependents
  • A letter from the applicant’s home institution supporting the research
  • A letter from NUS supporting the research
  • Evidence of sufficient funds for self-support and onward travel (typically a copy of a bank statement and return plane ticket)

For further information see www.samoaimmigration.gov.ws. 

UREC Research Forms (pdf)

  1. UREC Ethics form
  2. UREC proposal template
  3. UREC progress report template
  4. UREC final report template

UREC funded Research projects