Out of the frying pan? Streamlining the ethics review process of multisite qualitative research projects

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Australian Health Review, 2013, 37 (2), pp. 137 - 139
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This paper describes the ethics approval processes for two multicentre, nationwide, qualitative health service research projects. The paper explains that the advent of the National Ethics Application Form has brought many improvements, but that attendant processes put in place at local health network and Human Research Ethics Committee levels may have become significantly more complicated, particularly for innovative qualitative research projects. The paper raises several questions based on its analysis of ethics application processes currently in place. What is known about the topic? The complexity of multicentre research ethics applications for research in health services has been addressed by the introduction of the National Ethics Application Form. Uptake of the form across the country's human research ethics committees has been uneven. What does this paper add? This paper adds detailed insight into the ethics application process as it is currently enacted across the country. The paper details this process with reference to difficulties faced by multisite and qualitative studies in negotiating access to research sites, ethics committees' relative unfamiliarity with qualitative research, and apparent tensions between harmonisation and local sites' autonomy in approving research. What are the implications for practitioners? Practitioners aiming to engage in research need to be aware that ethics approval takes place in an uneven procedural landscape, made up of variable levels of ethics approval harmonisation and intricate governance or site-specific assessment processes. © AHHA 2013.
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