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Australasian Human Research Ethics Consultancy Services Pty Ltd (AHRECS)

Whose hearts, livers and lungs are transplanted in China? Origins must be clear in human organ research – The Conversation (Wendy Rogers and Matthew Robertson | February 2019)0

Posted by Admin in on February 14, 2019

Scientist He Jiankui’s claimed use of the genetic tool CRISPR to edit the genomes of twin girls led to international condemnation. His actions have focused a spotlight on research ethics – and what the consequences should be when scientists “go rogue”.

The Chinese Academy of Science initially looked into He’s conduct, and a subsequent internal government investigation has allegedly identified multiple violations of state laws. He has now been fired by his university.

Read more: Tension as scientist at centre of CRISPR outrage speaks at genome editing summit

But beyond just this example, what does happen when scientists fail to comply with globally-accepted guidelines for ethical medical research? We examined this issue focusing on published research involving recipients of organ transplants performed in the People’s Republic of China.\

Read the rest of this discussion piece

Political Research and Human Research Ethics Committees (Papers: Anthony J. Langlois | 2011)0

Posted by Admin in on February 5, 2019

Human Research Ethics Committees have become an established part of the institutional structure of research in the humanities and social sciences over the last two decades in Australia, a development which many in the political disciplines have regarded with ambiguity or outright hostility. My purpose is to consider some of the particular problems which arise for the political disciplines from the form of research ethics review which has become institutionalised in Australia, and to suggest some reforms which would significantly ameliorate these problems.

My argument is that the conceptual framework on which research ethics review is built, and consequently the institutional model by which ethical review is applied within Australian universities is not appropriate to some forms of political research, with serious detrimental consequences. These consequences may include, but are not limited to: research findings being potentially skewed; research going underground or being undertaken in ways which diverge from what has been approved by committees; self censorship; disengagement with institutional research governance procedures; the generation of risk for researchers who are operating outside institutional approvals because they feel they “have to”; the construction of unnecessary prejudice against the legitimate aims of research ethics review procedures; and, finally, and most disturbingly, important and legitimate research not being undertaken.

Raise the issue of research ethics with a politics researcher in the hallways of any Australian university, and you are likely to meet with a litany of complaints which match in some measure or another my list above. Being a politics academic and – until recently -­‐ the chair of a university wide human research ethics committee, has been an interesting experience; one which has led me to offer the following analysis and suggestions for reform.

Anthony J. Langlois (2011) Political Research and Human Research Ethics Committees. Australian Journal of Political Science, 46:1, 141-156, DOI: 10.1080/10361146.2010.544287

The picture talk project: Aboriginal community input on consent for research (Papers: Emily FM Fitzpatrick, et al | 2019)0

Posted by Admin in on February 3, 2019


The consent and community engagement process for research with Indigenous communities is rarely evaluated. Research protocols are not always collaborative, inclusive or culturally respectful. If participants do not trust or understand the research, selection bias may occur in recruitment, affecting study results potentially denying participants the opportunity to provide more knowledge and greater understanding about their community. Poorly informed consent can also harm the individual participant and the community as a whole.

Invited by local Aboriginal community leaders of the Fitzroy Valley, the Kimberley, Western Australia, The Picture Talk project explores the consent process for research. Focus groups of Aboriginal community members were conducted to establish preferences for methods of seeking individual consent. Transcripts were analysed through NVivo10 Qualitative software using grounded theory with inductive and deductive coding. Themes were synthesised with quotes highlighted.

Focus groups with Aboriginal community members (n = 6 focus groups of 3–7 participants) were facilitated by a Community Navigator as a cultural guide and interpreter and a researcher. Participants were recruited from all main language groups of the Fitzroy Valley – Gooniyandi, Walmajarri, Wangkatjungka, Bunuba and Nikinya. Participants were aged ≥18 years, with 5 female groups and one male group. Themes identified include: Reputation and trust is essential; The Community Navigator is key; Pictures give the words meaning – milli milli versus Pictures; Achieving consensus in circles; Signing for consent; and Research is needed in the Valley.

Aboriginal communities of the Fitzroy Valley recommend that researchers collaborate with local leaders, develop trust and foster a good reputation in the community prior to research. Local Aboriginal researchers should be employed to provide cultural guidance throughout the research process and interpret local languages especially for elders. Pictures are preferred to written text to explain research information and most prefer to sign for consent. The Fitzroy Valley welcomes research when collaborative and for the benefit of the community. Future research could include exploring how to support young people, promote health screening and improve understanding of medical knowledge.

Research, Consent, Qualitative Methods, Aboriginal, Indigenous, Community, Focus Groups, Pictures, Yarning

Fitzpatrick EFM, Carter M, Oscar J, D’Antoine H, Carter M, Lawford T and Elliott EJ (2019) The picture talk project: Aboriginal community input on consent for research. BMC Medical Ethics (2019) 20:12
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The Ethical Governance of German Physicians, 1890-1939: Are There Lessons from History? (Papers: Robert Dingwall & Vienna Rozelle | 2011)0

Posted by Admin in on December 20, 2018

The limitations of the traditional historiography of the ethical regulation of biomedical research are becoming increasingly well recognized. A simplistic history has been used to justify a simplistic policy, in the elaboration of regulatory instruments associated with a bureaucracy of administration and enforcement that has acquired its own material interests in self-perpetuation and jurisdictional expansion. The official history of institutionalized ethical regulation sees a clear and self-evident line of descent from the Nazi experiments of World War II to the various legal and quasi-legal instruments that now govern most scientific and, increasingly, social scientific practice. Without regulatory interventions, it is claimed, researchers will revert to barbarism.

Many of us point to the Nuremberg Code as the first formal attempt to govern the ethical conduct of human research.  While the atrocities committed by the Nazi scientists are no less horrific, this paper by Robert Dingwall and Vienna Rozelle paints quite a different picture of the early evolution of the governance of ethics in bio-medicine. The lessons and implications should cause us pause. Perhaps regulation is not a safeguard against ethically compromised research and we need to stop referring to the inhuman acts of the Nazis to justify our current human research ethics arrangements.

This version of the “rise of bioethics” tends to place considerable emphasis on the Nuremberg Doctors Trial, and the Nuremberg Code promulgated at its conclusion, and to use these as an “origin myth” that legitimizes its professional project. As a narrative, it says little, for example, about the lengthy gap between the conclusion of the Nuremberg trial in 1948 and the development of regulatory interventions for medical research in the victor countries during the 1960s. It tends not to acknowledge the evidence, from writers like Henry Beecher in the United States and Maurice Pappworth in the United Kingdom, that ethically questionable experiments continued in the victor countries well after World War II, a phenomenon explored further by Tal Bolton in a recent PhD. thesis and her article in this journal issue. However, it also tends to equate an absence of regulation with an absence of ethical concern, despite the evidence from Susan Lederer and Sydney Halpern about the effective operation of informal social controls in the United States before World War II. Most crucially, it neglects Jenny Hazelgroves exploration of the difficulty that the prosecutors faced in framing charges against the Nuremberg defendants because they were unable to point to any clear set of regulations or standards in any country other than Germany that could be said to have been violated.

The publication of further analyses of the pre-World War II German experience provides an additional resource for the critical examination of the claims being made about the importance of formal regulation in the maintenance of ethical standards in biomedical research. This body of work has documented the rise of attempts at ethical research governance in Germany from the late nineteenth century through to the 1930s. In so doing, it may seem to provide us with an opportunity to explore the limits of regulation. Why did it fail to protect the victims of the Nazi medical experiments? Why did it seemingly attract so little international interest, despite Germany’s leading role in science and biomedicine over much of this period? However, as a number of influential historians of late nineteenth- and early twentieth- century Germany have observed, the study of this period has suffered from the imposition of narrative arcs, influenced by sociology or political science, that see it only as the precursor to the disaster of the Nazi regime. No actor at the time consciously sought this end for their actions: even the Nazi leadership sought power rather than defeat. Accounts that find a logic in the events from the late nineteenth century to the end of World War II may overlook the unintended consequences of actors dealing with contingent events on the basis of partial information interpreted according to what were contemporaneously considered valid knowledge or theories. It is important, then, to avoid constructing an equally simplistic counter-narrative about the general ineffectiveness of regulation.

Dingwall, R and Rozelle, V (2011) The ethical governance of German physicians, 1890–1939: Are there Lessons from History? Journal of Policy History 23(1): 29-52.