National Human Research Ethics arrangements like the National Statement (see Section 5 of the National Statement) refer to institutions having responsibility for the oversight and review of research ethics review procedures. Being provided with a report on the functioning of the institution’s Human Research Ethics arrangements can be a useful way of assessing and monitoring processes and procedures.
For Australia, Section 5 of the National Statement lists the responsibilities of institutions, and those of the ethics review body, which should be covered by this report.
During the last 10 years, AHRECS has conducted desktop audits of more than 10 institutional Human Research Ethics arrangements. We have encountered considerable variability in these reports.
A good report should provide a global overview of the matters listed in the template.
It is important to remember the primary intended audience for these reports is likely to be:
- The Research Committee or Academic Board of the institution;
- The Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research); or
- The Council, Chief Executive or managing committee of the institution.
As such the information should be organised by headings, should be succinct and shouldn’t require reading additional material. An annual meeting with the Chair of the ethics review body might be a useful supplementary exercise to provide further context to the report.
If the research unit/office/team is reporting on numerous matters (such as Animal Ethics, Gene Technology, Defence Exports, Foreign Interference and/or Research Integrity) those matters should be reported separately to the Human Research Ethics report.
The report should also clearly identify matters where there are emerging ethical issues, potential institutional risks or matters of perceived concern.
The report is also an opportunity to flag areas where the institution’s arrangements are working well, stakeholder feedback, and any areas requiring attention/investment.
Consistent with the expectations discussed in Section 5, this report should be made publicly available (such as on the institution’s Human Research Ethics web site).