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Australasian Human Research Ethics Consultancy Services Pty Ltd (AHRECS)

The Politicisation of Ethics Review in New Zealand (Book: Martin Tolich and Barry Smith 2015)0

Posted by Admin in on February 14, 2016

Description: The National Women’s Hospital research scandal saw women being involved in medical research without their knowledge and without the opportunity to make a choice about their participation. The 1988 Cartwright Inquiry into this decades-long study established a template for ethics review in New Zealand. Ethics committees were subsequently established to independently evaluate the potential benefits as well as the risks of research.

This book traces the gradual undermining of the independence of ethics review in New Zealand and the politicisation of ethics committees between 1988 and 2014. There have been substantial changes in this review process brought about by government in response to other medical crises such as that which occurred in Gisborne in the late 1990s and then an “economic crisis” between 2008 and 2010 that involved international pharmaceutical companies.

This book explores the implications of these changes for a robust ethics review process across research environments in New Zealand, especially those affecting Maori. It includes recommendations aimed at enhancing independent ethics review, best practice, and providing adequate protection for all citizens.

Tolich, M. & Smith, B. (2015). The Politicisation of Ethics Review in New Zealand. Auckland: Dunmore. 241 pages.

Lay members of New Zealand research ethics committees: Who and what do they represent? (Papers: Gremillion et al 2015)0

Posted by Admin in on January 21, 2016

Abstract: Since the 1988 Cartwright Inquiry, lay members of ethics committees have been tasked with ensuring that ordinary New Zealanders are not forgotten in ethical deliberations. Unlike Institutional Review Boards (IRBs, or ethics committees) in North America, where lay members constitute a fraction of ethics committee membership, 50% of most New Zealand ethics committees are comprised of lay members. Lay roles are usually defined in very broad terms, which can vary considerably from committee to committee. This research queries who lay representatives are, what they do, and what if anything they represent. Our findings are based on data collection with 12 participants: eight semi-structured interviews with lay members from diverse types of ethics committees who described their roles, and commentary from four ethics committee chairs, three of these lay members who commented on this article’s final draft. Findings indicate that the role of New Zealand lay persons – although distinctively valued – is otherwise similar to the documented role of lay persons within North American ethics committees. Lay members see their role as primarily protecting the research participant and at times offering a corrective to non-lay members’ views and the interests of their institutions. However, in spite of their numbers, most lay members do not see themselves as representing any particular constituent groups or institutionally unaffiliated areas of concern. On tertiary education committees especially, there is a good deal of ambiguity in the lay role.

Gremillion, H., Tolich, M., & Bathurst, R. (2015). Lay members of New Zealand research ethics committees: Who and what do they represent? Research Ethics, 11(2), 82-97.

How does voluntary ethics improve research?: introducing a community research development initiative (Papers: Flanagan, Tumilty 2015)0

Posted by Admin in on January 19, 2016

Abstract: Until recently, community organisations in Aotearoa New Zealand (NZ) have not had any avenue for ethical review of research involving human participants unless they were connected to researchers involved with health and disability research (narrowly-defined), or tertiary education institutions. The New Zealand Ethics Committee (NZEC), a recent community research development initiative, has invited organisations to submit their proposals for voluntary ethics review and provides research methodology support where sought. This paper introduces this initiative, describing both its make-up and processes. It also explores the relationship between reviewer-applicant in the NZEC as distinctive to the relationship of reviewer-applicant in traditional ethical review settings, explaining this difference of power relations and philosophy. Those in the community see research ethics review as something to be learned along with research methodology/practice.

Flanagan, P. and Tumilty, E. (2015) How does voluntary ethics improve research? Introducing a community research development initiative, Whanake: The Pacific Journal of Community Development, 1(2), 14-23

The Ethics Application Repository0

Posted by Admin in on June 13, 2015


TEAR is an open-access, online repository of exemplary ethics applications using open source software (D-Space). It’s available to anyone to use – novice researchers, researchers exploring new methodologies and IRB members wanting to do the same. As it grows, we expect that researchers exploring ethical practice will also find it interesting as a source information.

The founders of TEAR believe that by sharing exemplary ethics applications, knowledge sharing occurs. This is something readily acknowledged and supported within disciplines generally, but overlooked when considering ethical practice specifically, as part of a researchers expertise and skills.  TEAR sets out from the premise that there is value in reading well put together applications of others and being able to see examples of safe and good ethical practice in a variety of situations.  Current entries in the archive cover a range of research settings from those with challenging contexts (such as illegal or unsafe behavior) to those with tricky relationships (within family auto-ethnographies). By providing these examples, researchers are able to explore how others have addressed various issues within their research and consider how to apply them to their own setting. 

TEAR is a relatively new initiative and as such has relatively small number of collections and items, but this collection packs some outstanding examples of ethical thinking for Photovoice projects, educational research, research with vulnerable populations, etc. TEAR is currently in a period of transition having been adopted by Oxford University and the UK’s Social Research Association.  As it moves to this new setting, it is expected that new collections and the size of collections themselves will grow adding more depth and breadth to the collection.

TEAR provides a unique and valuable resource to those applying for ethics and exploring ethical practice within a philosophical framework that supports knowledge and resource sharing.

For more information see: