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Is 'inconsistency' in research ethics committee decision-making really a problem? An empirical investigation and reflection

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posted on 2011-06-30, 12:51 authored by Emma L. Angell, C. J. Jackson, R. E. Ashcroft, A. Bryman, K. Windridge, Mary Dixon-Woods
Research Ethics Committees (RECs) are frequently a focus of complaints from researchers, but evidence about the operation and decisions of RECs tends to be anecdotal. We conducted a systematic study to identify and compare the ethical issues raised in 54 letters to researchers about the same 18 applications submitted to three RECs over one year. The most common type of ethical trouble identified in REC letters related to informed consent, followed by scientific design and conduct, care and protection of research participants, confidentiality, recruitment and documentation. Community considerations were least frequently raised. There was evidence of variability in the ethical troubles identified and the remedies recommended. This analysis suggests that some principles may be more institutionalized than others, and offers some evidence of inconsistency between RECs. Inconsistency is often treated as evidence of incompetence and caprice, but a more sophisticated understanding of the role of RECs and their functioning is required.

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Citation

Clinical Ethics, 2007, 2 (2), pp. 92-99

Published in

Clinical Ethics

Publisher

Royal Society of Medicine Press

issn

1477-7509;1758-101X

Copyright date

2007

Available date

2011-06-30

Publisher version

http://cet.sagepub.com/content/2/2/92

Language

en

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