AHRECS: Voice for constructive change. We provide access to some of the leading experts in human research ethics in Australia and New Zealand.
We provide expert and high quality consultancy services relating to research integrity, human research ethics, educational integrity and publication ethics for Australia, New Zealand and the wider Asia-Pacific region.
Over the years AHRECS has provided advice on human research ethics and research integrity matters to government departments, institutions, researchers, research ethics reviewers and ethics managers.
Friend or foe? Building better relationships between HRECs and researchers
In this terrific post, Jess Carniel of the University of Southern Queensland, reflects on research ethics committees engaging with researchers in discipline areas not included in core membership of a committee.
Jess Carniel is Senior Lecturer in Humanities in the School of Humanities and Communication, UniSQ.
She is also Deputy Chair of the USQ Human Research Ethics Committee and an Executive Member of the Centre for Heritage and Culture.
AHRECS agrees with and supports the approaches and ideas she discusses in this post.
We agree that the role research ethics committees should be approached positively to resource practice, rather than from within a bureaucratic frame to police research compliance with rules intended to constrain research practice.
Can reading Australian novels help us become more ethical researchers?
If someone asked you for some recommended reading or viewing to help them understand human research ethics, animal ethics or research integrity, what would you recommend?
The policies and standards issued by National governments, learned societies, funding bodies and academic publications are generally not especially engaging or entertaining.
In this blog post, Sally Dalton-Brown discusses a couple of options from the streaming and fiction publishing offerings.
They won’t exactly discuss, explain or define the principles of ethical or responsible conduct. Neither will they explain how to adhere to national requirements or instutiona policy. That isn’t surprising, but that is probably not the point. Entertainment, enjoyment and a bit of fun is a great way to engage people with the important elements of ethical and responsible behaviour in the design and conduct of research.
This material could be usefully included in the resource library for members of an institution’s research ethics committee.
The need for ethical guidance for research other than human research or animal-based scientific work
In this post, AHRECS Senior Consultant, Gary Allen, reflects on the fact that some research that does not require research ethics review from a Human Research Ethics Committee or an Animal Ethics Committee involve serious ethical questions that could benefit from guidance and ethical standards.
He uses four topical cases to illustrate why this is an important matter.
(1.) Kennewick Man and the ancient DNA (aDNA) furore – A case where there was an argument about the providence of an ancient body and whether it was subject to First Nation considerations.
(2.) Karl Andersson’s Masturbation Over Child Porn autoethnography project – A case that raised concern and commentary about the ethical oversight of research where there is potential for public harm.
(3.) Myanmar Amber Studies – A question about researchers purchasing amber samples from the country of Myanmar, when there are concerns that the revenue could be used to fund human rights abuses.
(4.) Artifical Intelligence Ethics Review – The use of Artificial Intelligence can have the potential for discrimination of marginalised communities and individuals. Given this potential for harm, it has been asked if there is a need for some form of ethics review of this work.
Setting the right tone
In this very practical talk, AHRECS senior consultant, Gary discusses the positive and constructive ways in which a research ethics committee Chair can set the tone of the meeting.
Committees can, and should, have a role beyond the normal operational tasks (e.g. confirmation of the minutes), research ethics review (including the framing of review feedback) and involvement in the institutions approach to professional development for its research community.
The Chair has an essential role in regards to how the committee utilises national and institutional guidance material that frames the conduct reviews and the ethical design/conduct of research projects.
They can usefully also guide the committee towards constructive handling of matters such as conflicts of interest and typographical errors in the material submitted to the committee.
AHRECS has considerable experience in working with research institutions in this area, including mentoring for Chairs and Secretaries, coaching for committees and professional development.
Is having alternate/reserve members a helpful practice?
In this incredibly helpful and practical post, Erich von Dietze (a senior consultant at AHRECS) reflects on the considerations, benefits and potential challenges when trying to structure your ethics committee (whether human research or Animal Ethics).
Like many matters in research governance (especially Human Research Ethics and Animal Ethics), there is no simple answer that is always right. Saving time and impediments in one area, can create more and introduce delays in another.
Erich discusses the options and explores the issues that require consideration.
Getting this right can mitigate against unexpected member absences, committee continuity and maintain the expertise and readiness of members.
Acting rashly can cause problems, take time and use up resources.
This item is a recommended read for research office staff, a secretaries, committee chairs and members.
An argument for registers for research ethics committee members
In this great and very helpful post, Gary and Kim (from AHRECS) looks at the benefits of institutions establishing and keeping updated a register of their members.
Such a register could track, when a member was appointed to the committee, when their appointment is up for renewal and the maximum finish date for their appointment. It should also track the dates on which the member has participated in professional development.
Such a register can be a component of good governance with regards to the membership of a research ethics committee.
Maintaining a register of when members have participated in professional development activities can be a great way of reinforcing the expectation that members will regularly participate in professional development. There is of course a reciprocal obligation that institutions regularly conduct internal and fund participation and external professional development activities.
It is good practice for institutions to maintain a public register of the declaration of interest from members. At the very least, such a register should be easily accessible by members of the committee, but it is also recommended that the register be publicly available. Members should be encouraged to at least lodge their interests when they are first appointed and when their membership is renewed.
AHRECS in Asia
AHRECS in Asia
Australasian Human Research Ethics Consultancy Services: Our work in Asia
澳大利亚和新西兰人类研究伦理咨询服务 / 澳大利亞和新西蘭人類研究倫理諮詢服務
Despite our name and our strong connections to Australia and New Zealand, for several years we have been providing advice to institutions in East and South-East Asia. In 2003, Gary Allen helped the Hanoi School of Public Health in Vietnam establish its human research ethics arrangements.
Following a period as an external examiner in the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Hong Kong, Mark Israel advised the Faculty of Law there on research integrity.
Resourcing Reflective Practice
Individually and together we have written a fair amount (see Gary, Mark and Colin‘s profiles for references) about the inherent flaws
of the enforcement and compliance approach. A more constructive, sustainable and positive approach is one that has a resourcing
reflective practice objective. See this short whiteboard video for more about this approach.