COVID-19 is prompting changes to academic delivery, essentially intended to contain the spread of the virus and protect the most vulnerable from its effects. As more countries introduce travel restrictions and mandate self-isolation, it will no doubt change the way we conduct research.
Research ethics review needs to adapt to meet the needs of these trying times.
But there will always be matters that need to be considered by a human research ethics committee.
One of the strengths of committee review and one of the reasons flying minutes are not favoured is that a committee’s membership brings together different perspectives, lived experience and knowledge.
It remains important that committees exercise their responsibilities in paragraph 5.2.31 of the National Statement.
5.2.31 Decisions by an HREC about whether a research proposal meets the requirements of this National Statement must be informed by an exchange of opinions from each of those who constitute the minimum membership (see paragraph 5.1.30). This exchange should, ideally, take place at a meeting with all those members present.
But, that does not mean committee members need to sit together in a room. The same valuable results might be achieved with video conferencing packages like Zoom and MS Teams, Blackboard Collaborate, perhaps even aided by asynchronous online collaborations on feedback. AHRECS has worked with many institutions that already run their meetings successfully online.
Of course, institutions may need to assess their on-line or virtual meeting systems to ensure they enable chairs to be satisfied that there has been an exchange of opinion and not merely individual expressions that are unseen by other members.
In addition, AHRECS can help you take advantage of an online meeting by conducting a short professional development activity on a topic of your choice. This would involve a further reading and reflection booklet, 15-minute pre-recorded presentation (e.g. Social Media and human research ethics) and 15 minutes of Q&A/discussion. The cost of such an activity is A$900.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss further.