ACN - 101321555 Australasian Human Research Ethics Consultancy Services Pty Ltd (AHRECS)
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Australasian Human Research Ethics Consultancy Services Pty Ltd (AHRECS)

The Intellectual and Moral Decline in Academic Research – James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal (Edward Archer | January 2020)0

Posted by Admin in on February 20, 2020

For most of the past century, the United States was the pre-eminent nation in science and technology. The evidence for that is beyond dispute: Since 1901, American researchers have won more Nobel prizes in medicine, chemistry, and physics than any other nation. Given our history of discovery, innovation, and success, it is not surprising that across the political landscape Americans consider the funding of scientific research to be both a source of pride and a worthy investment.

AHRECS highly recommends this excellent piece.  A worthy read, because it is an important reflection for anyone involved in conducting or guiding research.

Nevertheless, in his 1961 farewell address, President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned that the pursuit of government grants would have a corrupting influence on the scientific community. He feared that while American universities were “historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery,” the pursuit of taxpayer monies would become “a substitute for intellectual curiosity” and lead to “domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment…and the power of money.”

Eisenhower’s fears were well-founded and prescient.

My experiences at four research universities and as a National Institutes of Health (NIH) research fellow taught me that the relentless pursuit of taxpayer funding has eliminated curiosity, basic competence, and scientific integrity in many fields.

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Clinical trials: how to make informed consent more ethical – The Conversation (Jeremy Howick | February 2020)0

Posted by Admin in on February 19, 2020

It has been illegal to treat humans like guinea pigs since the Nuremberg trials, in which Nazi doctors were punished for doing unspeakable things to prisoners. These days, we have to explain the experiment to the people taking part in trials for new treatments and get their permission (their “informed consent”).

A fascinating discussion and useful suggestions.

Specifically, we have to tell them about the risks of taking part. So in a trial of a new drug, we have to tell patients about all the possible side-effects. In ethical geek-speak, we have to preserve patients’ autonomy by giving them enough information to make an autonomous decision. Which is fine, up to a point.

It is also an ethical requirement to avoid unnecessarily harming patients. A recent study published in the BMJ Journal for Medical Ethics shows that the relatively recent discovery of so-called nocebo effects – a result of the patient’s expectation that the treatment will harm them – means that harm is being done by the way we inform patients about the trial in which they are taking part.

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Defining predatory journals and responding to the threat they pose: a modified Delphi consensus process (Papers: Samantha Cukier, et al | February 2020)0

Posted by Admin in on February 18, 2020

To conduct a Delphi survey informing a consensus definition of predatory journals and publishers.

This is a modified three-round Delphi survey delivered online for the first two rounds and in-person for the third round. Questions encompassed three themes: (1) predatory journal definition; (2) educational outreach and policy initiatives on predatory publishing; and (3) developing technological solutions to stop submissions to predatory journals and other low-quality journals.


Post Beall’s List (and truth be told while the list was live) an agreed definition of predatory publishers (questionable publishers) is essential.  Also a good sense of their impact is  very important.  This recent open access paper is a great step in the right direction.

Through snowball and purposive sampling of targeted experts, we identified 45 noted experts in predatory journals and journalology. The international group included funders, academics and representatives of academic institutions, librarians and information scientists, policy makers, journal editors, publishers, researchers involved in studying predatory journals and legitimate journals, and patient partners. In addition, 198 authors of articles discussing predatory journals were invited to participate in round 1.

A total of 115 individuals (107 in round 1 and 45 in rounds 2 and 3) completed the survey on predatory journals and publishers. We reached consensus on 18 items out of a total of 33 to be included in a consensus definition of predatory journals and publishers. We came to consensus on educational outreach and policy initiatives on which to focus, including the development of a single checklist to detect predatory journals and publishers, and public funding to support research in this general area. We identified technological solutions to address the problem: a ‘one-stop-shop’ website to consolidate information on the topic and a ‘predatory journal research observatory’ to identify ongoing research and analysis about predatory journals/publishers.

In bringing together an international group of diverse stakeholders, we were able to use a modified Delphi process to inform the development of a definition of predatory journals and publishers. This definition will help institutions, funders and other stakeholders generate practical guidance on avoiding predatory journals and publishers.

Cukier S., Lalu M., Bryson GL., Cobey,. K. D., Grudniewicz, A. &  Moher, D (2020) Defining predatory journals and responding to the threat they pose: a modified Delphi consensus process. BMJ Open 10:e035561. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2019-035561
Publisher (Open Access):

Flying Blind – the Australian Health Data Series: Human Research Ethics Committees (HRECs) (Nadia Levin | September 2017)0

Posted by Admin in on February 17, 2020

Flying Blind is a series of three reports dedicated to uncovering the acute levels of data fragmentation existing at all levels of Australia’s health landscape.

In our previous blog, The Ethics Quagmire: Case Studies you might have read the case study by Kathy Tannous concerning the difficulties she has faced getting ethics approval from three ethics committees. But are there problems closer to home for researchers, in their own institutions, even when only one HREC is involved? We think so. But the solution may also lie with these institutions, in the better application of existing guidelines. We explain how below.

A set of three reports that make useful observations about health data management/sharing, research ethics review and the operation of HRECs.

Earlier this year, the Productivity Commission handed the Australian Government its report on Data Availability and Use and Research Australia is working with the Taskforce within the Prime Minister’s Department who is developing the Government’s response. A particular area of focus for us, as the national peak body for the medical research pipeline, is the Productivity Commission’s recommendations on Human Research Ethics Committees (HRECs).

HRECs are responsible for providing ethics approval for most publicly funded human research in Australia that involves people; the research can’t proceed without it. This includes research as diverse as a clinical trial, where patients are receiving experimental new medications and treatments, to surveys and research using existing datasets- the types of data based research considered by the Productivity Commission.

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