Evidence from UK Research Ethics Committee members on what makes a good research ethics review, and what can be improved

Mark Sidaway, Clive Collett, Simon Erik Kolstoe

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The rapid development of vaccines and other innovative medical technologies in response to the COVID-19 pandemic required streamlined and efficient ethics and governance processes. In the UK the Health Research Authority (HRA) oversees and coordinates a number of the relevant research governance processes including the independent ethics review of research projects. The HRA was instrumental in facilitating the rapid review and approval of COVID-19 projects, and following the end of the pandemic, have been keen to integrate new ways of working into the UK Health Departments’ Research Ethics Service. In January 2022 the HRA commissioned a public consultation that identified strong public support for alternative ethics review processes. Here we report feedback from 151 current research ethics committee members conducted at three annual training events, where we asked members to critically reflect on their ethics review activities, and to share new ideas or ways of working. The results showed a high regard for good quality discussion among members with diverse experience. Good chairing, organisation, feedback and the opportunity for reflection on ways of working were considered key. Areas for improvement included the consistency of information provided to committees by researchers, and better structuring of discussions by allowing signposting of the key issues that ethics committee members might need to consider.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0288083
Number of pages13
JournalPLoS One
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jul 2023

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