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The Research Ethics Service (RES) is one of our core functions and is committed to enabling and supporting ethical research in the NHS. It protects the rights, safety, dignity and wellbeing of research participants.

We have a duty to provide an efficient and robust ethics review service that maximises UK competitiveness for health research and maximises the return from investment in the UK, while protecting participants and researchers.

The Research Ethics Service consists of: 

We have a dual mission to protect the rights, safety, dignity and well-being of research participants and to facilitate and promote ethical research that is of potential benefit to participants, science and society. 

    We do this by: 

    • providing robust, proportionate and responsive ethical review of research through Research Ethics Committees (RECs)
    • providing ethical guidance to RECs
    • providing and delivering a managed structure to support RECs
    • delivering a quality assurance (QA) framework
    • delivering a training programme 
    • working with colleagues across the UK to maintain a UK-wide framework for ethical review
    • working with colleagues in the wider regulatory environment to streamline the processes for approving research
    • promoting and supporting transparency in research. 

    Development of the Research Ethics Service 

    Some of the considerable advances achieved are: 

    • the formal establishment of research ethics committees in the National Health Service in England in 1991, following the publication of Department of Health guidance HSG(91)5 (known as ‘The Red Book’) 
    • the establishment of multi-centre research ethics committees (MRECs) in 1997, following the publication of Department of Health guidance HSG (97)23 
    • the establishment of the Central Office for Research Ethics Committees (COREC) in 2000 
    • the publication of Governance Arrangements for NHS Research Ethics Committees (GAfREC) in July 2001 
    • the provision of a single UK-wide ethical opinion, following the implementation of version 1.0 of the Standard Operating Procedures for RECs in the United Kingdom on 1 March 2004 
    • the implementation of the EU Clinical Trials Directive 2001/20/EC on 1 May 2004 ‘Building on Improvement’ plan to deliver the ideas on REC operation and the interfaces with other research approvals processes set out by the advisory group chaired by Lord Warner
    • the establishment of the National Research Ethics Service (NRES) on 1 April 2007, which incorporated COREC and NHS RECs (in England) 
    • the publication of revised Governance Arrangements for NHS Research Ethics Committees Harmonised edition, September 2011
    • the establishment of the HRA on 1 December 2011 as a Special Health Authority, with the RES (formerly NRES) at the core of this NHS organisation. 

    Providing feedback on your experience of our services

    We always welcome feedback from users on the services that we offer. If you would like to tell us about your experience of our services then please complete our online feedback form

    More information about this form and how we use the information that is gathered is provided in the ‘quality assurance’ section of our site.

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