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Archived Comments for: Requirements for ethics committee review for studies submitted to Implementation Science

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  1. Clear guidance for researchers is to be welcomed

    Philip Preshaw, Chair, Newcastle and North Tyneside NHS Research Ethics Committee, and Professor of Periodontology, Newcastle University, UK

    17 August 2011

    I read the editorial by Eccles et al, "Requirements for ethics committee review for studies submitted to Implementation Science", with great interest.

    As the Chair of an NHS Research Ethics Committee in the UK, I receive a steady stream of requests for 'retrospective approval' by researchers who, upon submitting their completed research to a journal, suddenly find that before the journal will consider their paper, they are required to either have ethical approval in place, or to obtain a letter from an ethics committee saying that ethical approval would not have been needed. Clearly, this is a very unsatisfactory situation, and can arise for all sorts of reasons. Most usually, researchers feel that their research would not have required ethical approval in the first place, for example, they might consider their project to have been an audit, or a service evaluation. However, when it comes to publication, then suddenly, most authors seem to prefer that their work is regarded as research!

    I am also a researcher, so I am familiar with both sides of the system. I also feel that sense of mild dread when starting the process of obtaining all the permissions and approvals necessary to commence a research project. Filling in ethics application forms can be a daunting and laborious process, and the work involved can sometimes seem out of kilter with the ethical issues posed by a particular research project. Having read the comments in this editorial about the hope that ethics committees would have an expedited process for reviewing low risk studies, it may interest readers to learn that in the UK, a system of "Proportionate Review" is currently being piloted by the National Research Ethics Service (NRES). This system is targeted at studies which pose no material ethical issues (e.g. low risk questionnaire studies). These studies are not reviewed by the full ethics committee, but are reviewed by a Proportionate Review (PR) Committee comprised of 3 members of the main ethics committee, usually virtually (i.e. by email), with any questions that are raised by the PR committee being forwarded to the researchers who can then give a quick response by email so that a decision can be made very rapidly. The decisions are made within 14 days of receipt of the application from the researchers.

    The editorial by Eccles et al gives very clear guidance to researchers about the requirements for ethics committee approval for those studies that need it, and provides a framework for researchers to adhere to as they plan their research projects. I also echo the expectation that ethics committees make balanced and objective decisions, and support the implementation of expedited processes for low risk studies to reduce the burden on both researchers and ethics committees.

    Competing interests