The first meeting for 2014 of the ACU Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC) was held in North Sydney on Thursday 13 Feb at Tenison Woods House. Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Wayne McKenna welcomed the members of the Committee and thanked them for their commitment to support the University’s research intensification strategy. He outlined a number of changes to the ethics committee, including the appointment of an external Chairperson, Dr Nadia Crittenden, and the creation of a new position of Research Ethics Manager, currently filled by Ms Susanna Gorman. Both Dr Crittenden and Ms Gorman will be based in North Sydney and the current Research Ethics Officer, Mrs Kylie Pashley, will continue her role from the Brisbane Campus. He said that together they represented a range and breadth of experience that will benefit ACU researchers and students.
Professor McKenna acknowledged the dedication of the previous Chair, Professor John Ozolins, and outgoing members of the HREC. He said that the Committee would now be based in North Sydney, and that the monthly meetings would be held face-to-face to facilitate communication. The size of the HREC had been reduced and an executive would meet weekly to expedite review of low risk applications. The Committee combines continuing and new members, with the addition of external members as required by national guidelines governing the composition of HRECs.
The meeting began with a Welcome to Country by Dr Nerida Blair and Opening Prayer conducted by Rev Dr Andrew Murray.
Dr Crittenden said that she was aware that Ethics Committees were often viewed with trepidation but that her aim was to encourage communication between researchers and the HREC. She said that she would be available to consult on applications before submission to assist the review process. She would also encourage all members of the committee to consult on applications where possible and provide assistance to researchers to address issues before submission of their applications. Ideally, she said, the process of ethics review should be supportive of researchers and add to the overall quality of research making the life of researchers easier not harder.
Dr Crittenden plans to visit each faculty and campus to consult and foster open communication between the academic community and the ethics committee. She said she hoped that researchers would support these changes and assist with the development of a constructive and positive research ethics culture at ACU.