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Heterogeneity of Human Research Ethics Committees and Research Governance Offices across Australia: An observational study


De Smit, E and Kearns, LS and Clarke, L and Dick, J and Hill, CL and Hewitt, AW, Heterogeneity of Human Research Ethics Committees and Research Governance Offices across Australia: An observational study, Australasian Medical Journal, 9, (2) pp. 33-39. ISSN 1836-1935 (2016) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2016 AMJ

DOI: doi:10.4066/AMJ.2015.2587


Background: Conducting ethically grounded research is a fundamental facet of all investigations. Nevertheless, the administrative burdens of current ethics review are substantial, and calls have been made for a reduction in research waste.

Aims: To describe the heterogeneity in administration and documentation required by Human Research Ethics Committees (HRECs) and Research Governance Offices (RGOs) across Australia.

Methods: In establishing a nationwide study to investigate the molecular aetiology of Giant Cell Arteritis (GCA), for which archived pathological specimens from around Australia are being recruited, we identified variation across separate HREC and RGO requirements. Submission paperwork and correspondence from each collaborating site and its representative office for research were reviewed. This data was interrogated to evaluate differences in current guidelines.

Results: Twenty-five pathology departments across seven Australian States collaborated in this study. All states, except Victoria, employed a single ethics review model. There was discrepancy amongst HRECs as to which application process applied to our study: seven requested completion of a "National Ethics Application Form" and three a "Low Negligible Risk" form. Noticeable differences in guidelines included whether electronic submission was sufficient. There was variability in the total number of documents submitted (range five to 22) and panel review turnaround time (range nine to 136 days).

Conclusion: We demonstrate the challenges and illustrate the heavy workload involved in receiving widespread ethics and governance approval across Australia. We highlight the need to simplify, homogenise, and nationalise human ethics for non-clinical trial studies. Reducing unnecessary administration will enable investigators to achieve research aims more efficiently.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:Australian Offices for Research, Ethics administration, Human Research Ethics Committees, Multisite Medical Research, Regional Governance Offices
Research Division:Medical and Health Sciences
Research Group:Ophthalmology and Optometry
Research Field:Ophthalmology
Objective Division:Health
Objective Group:Clinical Health (Organs, Diseases and Abnormal Conditions)
Objective Field:Hearing, Vision, Speech and Their Disorders
Author:Hewitt, AW (Professor Alex Hewitt)
ID Code:108942
Year Published:2016
Web of Science® Times Cited:3
Deposited By:Menzies Institute for Medical Research
Deposited On:2016-05-12
Last Modified:2017-11-03

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