Human Research Ethics Committee Annual Report 2012‑13

The ACT Health Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC) continues its work of reviewing human research projects to ensure they meet the ethical standards set out in the National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research (2007), prepared by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), the Australian Research Council and the Australian Vice-Chancellors’ Committee. During the reporting period, HREC contributed to the NHMRC consultation papers on the McKeon review.

The HREC and its subcommittees strive to provide ethical review and approval in the shortest possible time, conscious of the pressures on researchers and their teams. During the reporting period, HREC improved on its previous average of 30 days. In 2012, the average time taken from submission to approval was 23.5 days. There were 115 full and 174 low-risk applications in 2012‑13.

HREC has continued to prepare for the advent of national programs of single ethical approval of multisite research and, in September 2012, achieved NHMRC certification to act as lead HREC in the single review system. The Human Research Ethics Manager, Ms August Marchesi, has continued to represent HREC and the ACT Health Directorate on the Jurisdictional Working Group that is progressing the single review system. By the end of 2013, the ACT expects to sign the memorandum of understanding with other jurisdictions which will mark the start of the national single review system.

The Ethics Committee has introduced a new Social Research Subcommittee (SRSC). After preparations in 2012, membership was established and the first meeting held in February 2013. SRSC has proved to be a valuable addition to the HREC process. Applications involving social research, including data linkage and internet-based programs, are increasing, and HREC is grateful to have the advice of expert members of the SRSC.

The Clinical Trials Subcommittee (CTSC) and the Survey Resource Group (SRG) have continued to provide HREC with expert advice on the merit and integrity of research proposals. June 2013 saw the resignation of Associate Professor Zsuzsoka Kecskes as Chair of SRG. Associate Professor Kecskes was a long-serving and dedicated chair and I am pleased to have this opportunity to thank her for her inestimable work in growing this group, as a valued resource to HREC and ACT Health.

HREC membership includes a lawyer, female and male laypersons, a minister of religion, a psychologist, a member providing Indigenous knowledge and expertise, and senior clinicians from Canberra Hospital. The chairman is a former specialist in obstetrics and gynaecology, a former dean and postgraduate dean and an adjunct professor of medical education. New members appointed in the past year have been a pharmacist, a hepatologist and a paediatrician. The work of the members of the main committee and various subcommittees is greatly valued.

On behalf of HREC and its subcommittees, I thank the administrative staff for their tireless work in keeping

HREC and its processes operating at the highest standards. August Marchesi, Sarah Flood and Gillian Fox have provided another year of exceptional work in supporting HREC.

Membership of the committee

 

Professor John Biggs Chairman
A/Professor Peter Hickman Deputy Chair
Professor Walter Abhayaratna member
Professor Geoff Farrell member
Professor Doug Boer member
Professor Paul Pavli member (resigned April 2013)
A/Professor Frank van Haren member
Dr Dipti Talaulikar member
Dr Jason Mazanov member
Dr Louise Morauta member
Dr Marian Currie member
Dr Tony Huynh member
Dr Manoj Singh member
Rev Doug Hutchinson member
Mr Ray Lovett member
Mr Ray Comer member (resigned October 2012)
Mr Luke Williamson member
Ms Kimberley Baillie member
Mr John Morrissey member
Ms Lyn Todd member
Ms Julie Kussy member

 

Number of research projects

During 2012‑13, HREC reviewed 115 proposals; 105 were approved. Of the remaining 10 proposals, one was withdrawn by the applicant, one was declined due to ACT-specific legislative restrictions, and eight remain in consultation, progressing towards approval.

Meetings of the Ethics Committee

The committee met 11 times from 1 July 2012 to 30 June 2013. Meetings are held monthly.

Subcommittees

The Clinical Trials Subcommittee (CTSC) reviewed 53 proposals, in each instance making recommendations to the main committee.

The Social Research Subcommittee (SRSC), which first met in February 2013, reviewed 18 proposals, in each instance making recommendations to the main committee.

The Low Risk Subcommittee (LRSC) reviewed 174 proposals and approved 157. Of the remaining 17, five were referred for consideration by the main committee, one was withdrawn by the applicant and 11 are in consultation.

The Survey Resource Group (SRG) reviewed 70 proposals providing endorsement of survey tools and/or recommendations to the main committee and LRSC.

Key points arising

The work, over a three-year period, of preparing HREC for the national single review system has produced many reforms and innovations in processes and administration. In October 2012, the Chairman delivered presentations on this work to Canberra Hospital Grand Rounds and to the Society of Research Administrators International Conference in Orlando, Florida. In 2013, an article authored by the chairman and manager was published in the Journal of Research Administration in the United States of America.