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Australasian Human Research Ethics Consultancy Services Pty Ltd (AHRECS)

Pseudoscience and COVID-19 — we’ve had enough already – Nature (Timothy Caulfield | April 2020)0

Posted by Admin in on May 3, 2020
 

The scientific community must take up cudgels in the battle against bunk.

Cow urine, bleach and cocaine have all been recommended as COVID-19 cures — all guff. The pandemic has been cast as a leaked bioweapon, a byproduct of 5G wireless technology and a political hoax — all poppycock. And countless wellness gurus and alternative-medicine practitioners have pushed unproven potions, pills and practices as ways to ‘boost’ the immune system.

Thankfully, this explosion of misinformation — or, as the World Health Organization has called it, the “infodemic” — has triggered an army of fact-checkers and debunkers. Regulators have taken aggressive steps to hold marketers of unproven therapies to account. Funders are supporting researchers (myself included) to explore how best to counter the spread of COVID-19 claptrap.

I have studied the spread and impact of health misinformation for decades, and have never seen the topic being taken as seriously as it is right now. Perhaps that is because of the scale of the crisis and the ubiquity of the nonsensical misinformation, including advice from some very prominent politicians. If this pro-science response is to endure, all scientists — not just a few of us — must stand up for quality information.

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Friday afternoon’s funny – An innovation too far?0

Posted by Admin in on May 1, 2020
 

Cartoon by Don Mayne www.researchcartoons.com
Full-size image for printing (right mouse click and save file)

Engaging professional development is essential for promoting a healthy research culture.  Drawing on innovations with regard to pedagogy is just smart, but there are techniques that work in some contexts that would be absurd with experienced researchers.

Vulnerability in human research (Papers: Ian J. Pieper & Colin J. H. Thomson AM | April 2020)0

Posted by Admin in on April 29, 2020
 

Abstract
The conduct of prior ethics review of human research projects helps to protect vulnerable groups or populations from potential negative impacts of research. Contemporary considerations in human research considers the concept of vulnerability in terms of access to research opportunities, impacts on the consenting process, selection bias, and the generalisability of results. Recent work questions the validity of using enumerated lists as a check box approach to protect research participants from exploitation. Through the use of broad categories to treat cohorts of human research participants as homogenous classes and label some participants as vulnerable merely because they are members of a particular class, some ethics reviewers have used the National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research to strip individuals of their “ethical equality”. Labelling people as vulnerable does not help researchers or human research ethics committee members develop an understanding of the complexities of applying the principles of respect and of justice in ethical decision-making. Conversely, defining specific cohorts of research participants as needing nuanced ethical consideration, due to their vulnerable nature, may imply that other population groups need not be considered vulnerable. We contend that this assumption is erroneous. This paper explores the way that human research ethics guidance documents treat vulnerability within the Australian context and draws on contemporary discussion to focus an alternative perspective based on the principles in the National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research for researchers and human research ethics committee members to consider.

Keywords
Vulnerability, Human Research Ethics, Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC), IRB

Pieper, I.J., Thomson, C.J.H. (2020) Vulnerability in human research. Monash Bioethics Review. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40592-020-00110-4

(COVID-19) Underpromise, overdeliver – Science (Editorial – H. Holden Thorp | March 2020)0

Posted by Admin in on April 27, 2020
 

The majority of crises that most of us have lived through have not looked to science for immediate answers. In many cases, much of the scientific analysis came after the fact—the effects of climate change on extreme weather events; the causes of nuclear accidents; and the virology of outbreaks that were contained such as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2002–2003 or Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) in 2012. Now, science is being asked to provide a rapid solution to a problem that is not completely described.

Rather than being just being for the COVID-19 work that is currently very much in the public’s eye at the moment, we suggest this maxim is useful for all media commentary by researchers about their research.

I am worried that science may end up overpromising on what can be delivered in response to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). This isn’t because I think the scientific community has bad intentions or will purposefully overhype anything, but because of what science can report in real time. It is difficult to share progress with adequate caveats about how long things might take or whether they will work at all. The scientific method is a very deliberate process that has been honed over time: Basic research, which describes the problem, is followed by applied research that builds on that understanding. Now, scientists are trying to do both at the same time. This is not just fixing a plane while it’s flying—it’s fixing a plane that’s flying while its blueprints are still being drawn.
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On the testing side, polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technology is allowing folks to know quickly whether they are infected with SARS coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the cause of COVID-19. However, a negative PCR test result may lead a person to erroneously conclude that they’re in the clear, which is a danger to controlling the spread. We urgently need serology tests that show whether someone has had the infection and recovered. And we must be able to identify individuals who have some immunity to SARS-CoV-2 because understanding their biology may contribute to helping the world recover.
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