Abstract: Since the 1988 Cartwright Inquiry, lay members of ethics committees have been tasked with ensuring that ordinary New Zealanders are not forgotten in ethical deliberations. Unlike Institutional Review Boards (IRBs, or ethics committees) in North America, where lay members constitute a fraction of ethics committee membership, 50% of most New Zealand ethics committees are comprised of lay members. Lay roles are usually defined in very broad terms, which can vary considerably from committee to committee. This research queries who lay representatives are, what they do, and what if anything they represent. Our findings are based on data collection with 12 participants: eight semi-structured interviews with lay members from diverse types of ethics committees who described their roles, and commentary from four ethics committee chairs, three of these lay members who commented on this article’s final draft. Findings indicate that the role of New Zealand lay persons – although distinctively valued – is otherwise similar to the documented role of lay persons within North American ethics committees. Lay members see their role as primarily protecting the research participant and at times offering a corrective to non-lay members’ views and the interests of their institutions. However, in spite of their numbers, most lay members do not see themselves as representing any particular constituent groups or institutionally unaffiliated areas of concern. On tertiary education committees especially, there is a good deal of ambiguity in the lay role.
Gremillion, H., Tolich, M., & Bathurst, R. (2015). Lay members of New Zealand research ethics committees: Who and what do they represent? Research Ethics, 11(2), 82-97.