Do university ethics committees adequately protect public health researchers?

Aust N Z J Public Health. 2005 Dec;29(6):576-9; discussion 580-2. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-842x.2005.tb00254.x.


Objective: This paper aims to examine whether university human research ethics committees (HRECs) proactively seek to protect members of the research team as well as study subjects in their written documentation.

Methods: A content analysis of 37 Australian university HREC application forms and attachments was undertaken. Each form was allocated to one of four predetermined categories.

Results: Of the 37 forms, only three included an explicit request for the applicant to reflect on all possible aspects of safety of the researchers (physical, psychological and emotional).

Conclusion: Few HRECs have taken issues of possible harm to researchers into account in their documentation. It is recommended that HRECs explicitly recognise potential risks to researchers, especially those engaged in exploration of sensitive topics, in their processes of approving human research. It is also recommended that researchers consider the possible implications of undertaking this type of research and ensure strategies are in place to minimise these risks.

MeSH terms

  • Australia
  • Documentation
  • Ethics Committees*
  • Humans
  • Occupational Health*
  • Public Health*
  • Research Personnel*
  • Universities*