Epidemiological research is subject to an ethics review. The aim of this qualitative review is to compare existing ethical guidelines in English for epidemiological research and public health practice in regard to the scope and matter of an ethics review. Authors systematically searched PubMed, Google Scholar and Google Search for ethical guidelines. Qualitative analysis (constant comparative method) was applied to categorize important aspects of the an ethics review process. Eight ethical guidelines in English for epidemiological research were retrieved. Five main categories that are relevant to the review of epidemiological research by Institutional Review Boards/Research Ethics Committees were distinguished. Within the scope of main categories, fifty-nine subcategories were analyzed. There are important differences between the guidelines in terms of the scope and matter of an ethics review. Not all guidelines encompass all identified ethically important issues, and some do not define precisely the scope and matter of an ethics review, leaving much to the ethics of the individual researchers and the discretion of IRBs/RECs.
Keywords: An ethics review in epidemiology; Ethics of epidemiological research; Ethics of public health studies; Institutional Review Board; Multicenter studies; Qualitative review; Research Ethics Committee; Systematic review.