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Australasian Human Research Ethics Consultancy Services Pty Ltd (AHRECS)

Australia Day honours recognise contributions to human research ethics0

Posted by Admin in Human Research Ethics on February 25, 2019 / Keywords: , , ,
 

We wish to add our congratulations to two recipients of honours on Australia Day who have made important contributions to human research ethics in Australia over the last 35 years.

Distinguished Prof. Don Chalmers was chair of the Australian Health Ethics Committee (AHEC) from 1994 to 2000. During this time he, together with Regis Mary Dunne AO, conducted a national review of the role and functioning of institutional ethics committees which led directly to the first National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Research Involving Humans in 1999.

The 1999 National Statement replaced the 1966 NHMRC one-page Statement on Human Experimentation to which numerous supplementary notes had been added across three decades.  The 1999 document was a significant landmark in human research ethics in Australia, not only because it brought that NHMRC history together but also because it was endorsed by the Australian Vice-Chancellor’s Committee, the Australian Research Council. The Australian Academies of the Humanities, Science and Social Sciences also endorsed the Statement and it was supported by the Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering. As a member of AHEC in 1998-99, I remember how Don led these initiatives and negotiations with characteristic diplomacy, tact and good humour.

Don has made important contributions to genetic and genomic research through the Centre for Law and Genetics at the University of Tasmania and to genomic screening and research through his membership of national working groups.

The national recognition of becoming an Officer of the Order of Australia is a fitting addition to his receipt of the NHMRC Ethics Award in 2010.

Prof. John McNeil, who had received an AM in 2008, was also appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia. Although his contributions have been primarily in clinical epidemiology, cardiovascular research and public health, the award also recognises his chairing of the human research ethics committee of the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne for 30 years.  I had the privilege of attending the committee’s meetings on several occasions and recognised the skill and experience that he brought to that role.

John’s commitment to the value of clinical registers was influential in his strong support for the introduction of an opt-out approach to Chapter 2.3 of the National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research in 2014.

Prof Colin Thomson AM
AHRECS senior consultantcolin.thomson@ahrecs.com

This post may be cited as:
Thomson, C. (25 January 2019) Australia Day honours recognise contributions to human research ethics. Research Ethics Monthly. Retrieved from: https://ahrecs.com/human-research-ethics/australia-day-honours-recognise-contributions-to-human-research-ethics

REAlising a collegiate Research Ethics Adviser network0

 

By
Dr Gary Allen| Senior Consultant AHRECS| gary.allen@ahrecs.com
Dr Mark Israel| Senior Consultant AHRECS| mark.israel@ahrecs.com

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:

  1. 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.
  2. A legacy of an adversarial climate, and distrust, between researchers, research ethics reviewers and the research office (Israel et al., 2016).
  3. Serious budgetary constraints.
  4. 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.
  5. Review feedback needing to be detailed and long, but often receiving poor and aggressive responses.
  6. 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

https://www.patreon.com/posts/24928731

Available to USD3/month patrons

A network of collegiate Research Ethics Advisers (REAs) enables a group of experienced researchers to act as a source of collegiate advice to other researchers in their area. Among the roles of a REA should be:
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  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

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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.
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In our Patreon area, we have included:
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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.

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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.
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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.

Figure 1 – A version of this image, which is not watermarked, is available from https://www.patreon.com/ahrecs with a USD3/month subscription.

References:

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
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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

AHRECS Human research ethics workshop in Thailand0

 

One of our consultants (Dr Lindsey Te Ata o Tu MacDonald) recently facilitated a seminar on research ethics in the department of politics and governance at Mahasarakham University, Thailand. After 5 minutes setting out the institutions and codes of Thailand, Lindsey’s session was a practical ‘how to guide’ on research ethics for students and staff. Lindsey has often been called on to give such talks as Chair of the New Zealand Ethics Committee (see nzethics.com) and in his earlier role as Chair of the University of Canterbury Human Ethics Committee. Interestingly, the way in which Lindsey asks researchers to ‘imaginative engage’ with the ethics of their project by asking them how they would design their project if their Grandmother wanted to participate, and it was a stranger doing the research – what Lindsey calls the ‘grandmother test’ – translated directly in to Thai, as the ‘Yai test’.

For more on ‘imaginative engagement’ see Guillemin, M., Gillam, L., Rosenthal, D., & Bolitho, A. (2008). Investigating human research ethics in practice: Project report. Melbourne, VIC, Australia: Centre for Health and Society, The University of Melbourne. , and For Lindsey’s first paper setting out the ‘grandmother test’ see. MacDonald, L. T. A. O. T. (2018). Ethics and Politics. In M. Tolich & C. Davidson (Eds.), Social Science Research in NZ (4th ed.). Auckland: University of Auckland Press.

Participants in the seminar on Ethics in human subject research at the College of Politics and Governance, Mahasarakham University, Thailand

Prof Cherngcharn Chongsomchai, Dean and Head of the College of Politics and Governance, debating a point with students and staff during the seminar.

Contributor
AHRECS Team | Our Services | engage@ahrecs.com

This post may be cited as:
MacDonald, L. T. A. O. T. (22 December 2018) AHRECS Human research ethics workshop in Thailand (2018). Research Ethics Monthly. Retrieved from: https://ahrecs.com/ahrecs-admin/ahrecs-human-research-ethics-workshop-in-thailand

Ten ways of ensuring affordable professional development in your institution0

 

Research institutions have a responsibility under the Australian Code to ‘Provide ongoing training and education that promotes and supports responsible research conduct for all researchers and those in other relevant roles’ (Responsibility 4). Among other things, the National Statement requires that each member of an HREC (National Statement 5.2.3c) receives professional development.

Some institutions may feel that this places a significant burden on the staff responsible for and the funds available for human research ethics and integrity. It won’t surprise you to hear that AHRECS thinks it can help.

1. We have created an expanding suite of professional development resources for subscribers in Patreon. Many of our clients are happy for us to share materials that have been developed for their specific needs once they have had first use, knowing that they will also benefit from the generosity of our other clients as part of a community of practice. A subscription of USD15 per month (approx. AUD20) enables access to all materials; these can then be shared across your institution. You can see two examples of the resources here. See https://www.patreon.com/ahrecs  for more information and to subscribe.

2. AHRECS runs free webinars of panel-based discussions on pressing matters of general interest. Over the last year, speakers from the NHMRC, AHEC, AHRECS and various HRECs have spoken about how to respond to the new Australian Code and the changes to the National Statement.

3. AHRECS can provide face-to-face workshops of up to a day for HRECs, research ethics advisors, groups of researchers and professional staff. We’ve been doing this for CSIRO for over a decade. We also pre-record in-meeting professional development for HRECs across the country, supplementing these video resources with video-conferenced question and answer sessions. Our offerings in this regard start from $900 for the in-meeting activities to $2300 for a full day on-site workshop. Contents and format can be tailored to your institution’s specific needs.

4. AHRECS publishes the free Research Ethics Monthly. As readers know, REM includes topical items relating to human research ethics and research integrity. Your staff could also draw on their experience to contribute to REM as a way of engaging with and receiving feedback from the broader Australasian research ethics community.

5. Institutions could make greater use of their researchers who engage thoughtfully with research ethics matters. HRECs could invite them to speak about ethics at one of their meetings, and record this to create a library of video materials. AHRECS would be happy to host and share these materials across the sector.

6. AHRECS can provide either mentoring or on-call advice to human research ethics/research integrity officers, secretaries, chairs or senior research leaders via email, phone or video-link (this complements in-house expertise and provides affordable access to decades of human research ethics/research integrity experience)

7. We are happy to recommend purchasing the Griffith University Research Ethics Manual which, at $10,000 allows you to gain access to about two years-worth of resource development in human research ethics. AHRECS doesn’t receive any financial benefit from this#, but we can covert the GUREM to a resource that reflects the jurisdictional and institutional contexts within which your researchers operate. Over the last year, we’ve completed this work for ECU and have created video resources to help researchers make best use of the research ethics manual.

8. AHRECS can run a full Masters unit on social research ethics. We deliver this as an intensive each year in Perth in partnership with the University of Western Australia.

9. Institutions can designate a policy officer responsible for reviewing and disseminating relevant news, industry and professional websites, using Google alerts and research output monitoring to collect material of potential interest/value to the University’s research ethics reviewers, REAs and/or researchers. Some of this work is already done by AHRECS for anyone subscribing to its free news service. The vast majority of links are either directly relevant to Australia or are otherwise of interest to the Australian research ethics community. When items are added, an alert+link is posted to our social media pages (LinkedIn | Twitter | Facebook).

10. Ten sounds so much better than nine, doesn’t it? If you have a crash-hot idea about professional development that you want to share with other people in the sector, please suggest a piece for Research Ethics Monthly.

# Dr Gary Allen is the principal author of the GUREM so does receive a component of the license fee.

Contributor
Mark Israel, AHRECS Senior Consultant
Mark’s profilemark.israel@ahrecs.com

Israel, M. (21 December 2018) Ten ways of ensuring affordable professional development in your institution (2018). Research Ethics Monthly. Retrieved from: https://ahrecs.com/ahrecs-admin/ten-ways-of-ensuring-affordable-professional-development-in-your-institution

 

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