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Australasian Human Research Ethics Consultancy Services Pty Ltd (AHRECS)

The battle for ethical AI at the world’s biggest machine-learning conference – Nature (Elizabeth Gibney | January 2020)0

Posted by Admin in on February 9, 2020

Bias and the prospect of societal harm increasingly plague artificial-intelligence research — but it’s not clear who should be on the lookout for these problems.

Diversity and inclusion took centre stage at one of the world’s major artificial-intelligence (AI) conferences in 2018. But once a meeting with a controversial reputation, last month’s Neural Information Processing Systems (NeurIPS) conference in Vancouver, Canada, saw attention shift to another big issue in the field: ethics.

If your institution is involved in AI, algorithm or big data research, who advises on its ethical dimensions?   Given the potential for societal harm, perhaps it’s time for serious consideration of the need for research ethics review for such work.

The focus comes as AI research increasingly deals with ethical controversies surrounding the application of its technologies — such as in predictive policing or facial recognition. Issues include tackling biases in algorithms that reflect existing patterns of discrimination in data, and avoiding affecting already vulnerable populations. “There is no such thing as a neutral tech platform,” warned Celeste Kidd, a developmental psychologist at University of California, Berkeley, during her NeurIPS keynote talk about how algorithms can influence human beliefs. At the meeting, which hosted a record 13,000 attendees, researchers grappled with how to meaningfully address the ethical and societal implications of their work.

Ethics gap
Ethicists have long debated the impacts of AI and sought ways to use the technology for good, such as in health care. But researchers are now realizing that they need to embed ethics into the formulation of their research and understand the potential harms of algorithmic injustice, says Meredith Whittaker, an AI researcher at New York University and founder of the AI Now Institute, which seeks to understand the social implications of the technology. At the latest NeurIPS, researchers couldn’t “write, talk or think” about these systems without considering possible social harms, she says. “The question is, will the change in the conversation result in the structural change we need to actually ensure these systems don’t cause harm?”

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International Policy Frameworks for Consent in Minimal-risk Pragmatic Trials (Papers: Tanya J. Symons, et al | November 2019)0

Posted by Admin in on December 17, 2019


There is intense debate around the use of altered and waived consent for pragmatic trials. Those in favor argue that traditional consent compromises the internal and external validity of these trials. Those against, warn that the resultant loss of autonomy compromises respect for persons and could undermine trust in the research enterprise.

This article examines whether international ethical guidelines and the policy frameworks in three countries—the United States, England, and Australia—permit altered and waived consent for minimal-risk pragmatic trials conducted outside the emergency setting. Provisions for both are clearly articulated in U.S. regulations, but many countries do not have equivalent frameworks. Investigators should not assume that all consent models permitted in the United States are legal in their jurisdictions, even if they are deemed ethically defensible.

The authors summarize ethical and regulatory considerations and present a framework for investigators contemplating trials with altered or waived consent.

Symons, T.J., Zeps, N., Myles, P.S., Morris, J.M. & Sessler, D.I. (2019) International Policy Frameworks for Consent in Minimal-risk Pragmatic Trials. Anesthesiology 2020;132(1):44-54. doi:

Value pluralism in research integrity (Papers: Rik Peels, et al | August 2019)0

Posted by Admin in on November 30, 2019

Both scientists and society at large have rightfully become increasingly concerned about research integrity in recent decades. In response, codes of conduct for research have been developed and elaborated. We show that these codes contain substantial pluralism. First, there is metaphysical pluralism in that codes include values, norms, and virtues. Second, there is axiological pluralism, because there are different categories of values, norms, and virtues: epistemic, moral, professional, social, and legal. Within and between these different categories, norms can be incommensurable or incompatible. Codes of conduct typically do not specify how to handle situations where different norms pull in different directions. We review some attempts to develop an ordering of different sorts of norm violations based on a common measure for their seriousness. We argue that they all fail to give adequate guidance for resolving cases of incommensurable and conflicting norms. We conclude that value pluralism is inherent to codes of conduct in research integrity. The application of codes needs careful reasoning and judgment together with an intellectually humble attitude that acknowledges the inevitability of value pluralism.

Peels, R., Ridder, J., Haven, T. & Bouter, L. (2019) Value pluralism in research integrity. Research Integrity and Peer Review 4, 18 doi:10.1186/s41073-019-0076-4
Publisher (Open Access):

Using ASCO’s Clinical Database for Commercial Research Raises Questions, Ethicists Say – Medscape (Ellie Kincaid | May 2019)0

Posted by Admin in on August 8, 2019

Eleven abstracts of the thousands accepted for publication at this year’s annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), one of the largest cancer research conferences in the world, draw upon data collected through a nonprofit subsidiary of ASCO that in 4 years has brought together the electronic health records (EHRs) of 1.2 million patients.

The ASCO subsidiary — CancerLinQ — will have its own 1200 square foot booth in prime real estate at the entrance to the meeting’s exhibit hall. It has received data from 48 healthcare institutions to help them improve care for patients and has compiled a treasure trove of data for researchers studying how expensive cancer drugs work for patients in the real world. But ethicists are concerned that CancerLinQ is allowing companies to sell access to the data after they have been stripped of patient identifiers, without asking for patients’ permission.

“I think that the ethics of profiting off of someone else’s information is dicey and at the very least the patient should go in with their eyes open, and that requires informing them,” said Robert Field, PhD, MPH, JD, a professor of law and public health at Drexel University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

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