The BC Ethics Harmonization Initiative (BCEHI) aims to create efficient, coordinated, and high-quality processes that support and encourage multi-jurisdictional human health research. The goal is to make BC a more attractive environment for research activity.

BC is implementing harmonized models that will make the ethics review process more timely and efficient and allow researchers to submit a single ethics application, regardless of the number of BC jurisdictions involved in a project. Harmonization will also ensure the consistency and quality of ethics review, in compliance with TCPS-2, across all research ethics boards. Overall, BCEHI will encourage more multi-jurisdictional health research and make BC a more competitive and innovative health research environment.

“Thank you! This is wonderful news, and we are VERY grateful for the fast turnaround and for all of the quick and helpful responses to any questions that came up along the way. Compared to previous applications that I have made involving multiple jurisdictions, this has been extremely smooth.”

— Barbara Purves, Associate Professor, University of British Columbia

“The standard procedure in dealing with more than one ethics board is so cumbersome and disheartening that I have considered never conducting research again when more than one ethics approval is required. Having institutions review the application and make joint decisions about what is required makes the process researcher-friendly – a rare thing these days! I believe that the harmonized ethics review process is the one thing that I can think of in 10 years as an academic that has actually facilitated and supported my work in a meaningful way.”

Natalee Popadiuk, Associate Professor, University of Victoria

Current status

May 2017

BCEHI has moved from the ‘pilot’ phase into full acceptance of the harmonized models for minimal risk and above minimal risk studies by the partner institutions.  Since early 2016, the partners have been implementing the harmonized review models successfully.  Where anomalies have occurred that required some adaptation of the models for individual circumstances, the partner institutions have embraced this opportunity and worked to smooth the process for researchers and reviewers.

The next phase of development is focused on sustainability for the harmonized approach in the province.  This includes a detailed project focused in the development of an electronic platform to support harmonized reviews as well as creating working groups within the Advisory Committee to address Evaluation, Education, and Outreach/Communication activities.  Evaluation is focused on ensuring we have measures to demonstrate not only the statistics (e.g. how many harmonized reviews) but also performance metrics (e.g. time taken to perform a harmonized review process). The Education working group will develop materials and an approach for ensuring all research ethics administrative teams understand their role in the process, and work together to address any issues that may arise.  The Outreach/Communication working group will focus on materials and activities to engage the stakeholders in the process (researchers, Research Ethics Board members, and administrators) as well as engaging institutions that are not yet part of the official BCEHI partnership.

The Advisory Committee has also started to be fulfill the ‘advisory’ role (as the term implies) by providing input to institutions and provincial initiatives when requested.

For the latest project updates, refer to the News section.

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