Our research ethics consultancy activity in recent years has involved us working with a broad range of research institutions. Despite diversity in size, budget, age, geographical reach and mission, in some respects institutions face similar challenges, frustrations and risks. In relation to research ethics, the recurrent themes that we have noticed include:
- There being insufficient time and capacity to conduct professional development activities, especially activities focussed on the needs and experiences of schools, departments, research centres and research offices.
- A legacy of an adversarial climate, and distrust, between researchers, research ethics reviewers and the research office (Israel et al., 2016).
- Serious budgetary constraints.
- Difficulty in recruiting new members of the research ethics committee, especially from areas that do not have a long-standing connection to human research ethics or have had difficult experiences with research ethics review. This may be compounded by university initiatives to reshape their workforce in a way that prioritises research income and outputs.
- Review feedback needing to be detailed and long, but often receiving poor and aggressive responses.
- Difficulty in eliciting constructive, or sometimes any, response to internal or external consultations from some parts of the institution.
We have developed a strategy (Allen and Israel, 2018) that can form part of the response to these matters as part of a commitment to resourcing reflective practice. It draws on existing resources, fosters a better relationship between reviewers and researchers, helps target constructive feedback, builds the capacity of researchers to engage in ethical research, and prepares a new cohort of researchers to join the human research ethics committee.
SHORT BRIEFING PAPER ON REA NETWORKS
Available to USD3/month patrons
- Involvement in facilitating professional development workshops and other activities in their area. This might initially involve them introducing sessions run by the university on particular aspects of research ethics pertinent to specific disciplines, commenting on the issues raised and engaging in discussion. Eventually, the entire activity might be facilitated by the REA. This strategy distributes leadership of human research ethics, and reinforces its important to quality research in their area, not ‘just’ a matter of complying with externally imposed rules.
- When applicants are sent complicated feedback, they might usefully be directed to consult their local REA before responding. This allows the review body to leave long written explanations to be complemented and explained by a more personal verbal explanation, and it should improve confidence that the applicant’s response will resolve the matter, rather than requiring another round of feedback.
- The REA network can serve as a conduit for information between researchers and reviewers, providing early warning to an institution when clashes might arise over methodology or changes in regulation.
Having assisted a number of institutions to establish, appoint, provide professional development and support to REA networks, we have found the optimal appointment level to be at the school/team/department level with the number of REAs recruited from an area reflecting the number of researchers in that area who conduct human research.
In our Patreon area, we have included:
A briefing note about a standard operating procedure for a REA network with the heading Basic Structure, which provides a plan for the establishment and operation of a collegiate network.
A subscription of USD 5/month will provide access to this material. A subscription of USD 15/month will provide access to all our Patreon materials. Contact us at Patreon@ahrecs.com to discuss.
AHRECS would of course be delighted to help you turn those shells into documents tailored to your institution’s needs. We are also able to assist in the establishment and professional development of a collegiate REA network. Contact us at REA@ahrecs.comto discuss.
Allen, G and Israel, M (2018) Moving beyond Regulatory Compliance: Building Institutional Support for Ethical Reflection in Research. In Iphofen, R and Tolich, M (eds) The SAGE Handbook of Qualitative Research Ethics. London: Sage. pp.276-288.
Israel, M, Allen, G and Thomson, C (2016) Australian Research Ethics Governance: Plotting the Demise of the Adversarial Culture. In van den Hoonaard, W and Hamilton, A (eds) The Ethics Rupture: Exploring Alternatives to Formal Research-Ethics Review. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. pp 285-316. http://www.utppublishing.com/The-Ethics-Rupture-Exploring-Alternatives-to-Formal-Research-Ethics-Review.html
This post may be cited as:
Allen, G. &.Israel, M. (25 February 2019) REAlising a collegiate Research Ethics Adviser network. Research Ethics Monthly. Retrieved from: https://ahrecs.com/human-research-ethics/realising-a-collegiate-research-ethics-adviser-network