Collaborative approach to ethics harmonization paying off

BC’s emerging models of harmonized research ethics review were acclaimed by a national audience earlier this month at the annual conference of the Canadian Association of Research Ethics Boards.

Three members of the BC Ethics Harmonization Initiative (BCEHI) Advisory Committee presented the initiative’s progress to date, including challenges, successes, and lessons learned. The presenters shared details of BC’s pilot models for ethics review of minimal risk and above minimal risk studies, describing how committee members came together across organizational lines to develop and adopt a common framework.

“The universities and health authorities have different processes and cultures,” says presenter Terri Fleming, chair of the BCEHI Advisory Committee. “We took the time to understand these differences and develop processes that work in both contexts.”

Conference participants were impressed by the collaborative approach and the progress that has been made in bringing the harmonized models to pilot implementation. The minimal risk model – launched in December 2014 – is nearing the end of its pilot phase, while the above minimal risk model is scheduled to start June 1.

Fleming emphasizes that it takes patience and flexibility to build relationships, work through stumbling blocks, carry out consultation, and reach consensus. Early evidence from the minimal-risk pilot evaluation suggests that this collaborative effort is paying off, with researchers commenting on the faster turnaround and smoother review process.

Along with Fleming, the BCEHI presenters were Jean Ruiz (Senior Research Ethics Analyst for Behavioural Research Ethics at the University of British Columbia) and Wendy Petillion (Research Ethics Leader for Interior Health).