My journey into research ethics - a blog by Isabelle Butcher, vice-Chair of Greater Manchester East Research Ethics Committee

Last updated on 22 Feb 2023

Isabelle blogs about the importance of Research Ethics Committees (REC) and why she is encouraging people to consider joining one. She is vice-Chair of Greater Manchester East Research Ethics Committee.

I become a REC member in 2017. I was encouraged to apply by my colleagues at the University of Manchester, where I worked as a researcher.

I was working on my PhD research project, and they advised that becoming a REC member would be interesting and useful for my research, as well as my professional development.

I was aware of the research ethics approval process, and I had previously attended a REC meeting for a research project I conducted.

I found it a unique and complex process as a researcher to go through. It was fascinating and a little daunting knowing that so many people, from all professional backgrounds have read and scrutinized your research documents.

I currently work as a researcher at the University of Oxford in the psychiatry department and sitting on an ethics committee whilst working in research enables me to understand the processes that researchers have gone through to design a particular project. I understand the hurdles that they’ve had to climb to get their project this far.

On my committee we have members from all professional backgrounds, including but not limited, to teachers, scientists, clinicians, to those working in industry and business sectors. To serve on a committee with individuals who have a range of experiences, enables research applications to be reviewed in great depth.

It is a real privilege to be able to sit on a committee and read about all the brilliant research that is being conducted in England; from qualitative studies being conducted by research students to large scale randomised controlled trials on pharmacological interventions.

No study is the same and each time I look at an application I am amazed at the fantastic work that is being conducted in a range of disciplines connected to health.

I think it’s important that people from all professional backgrounds are made aware of the important work RECs do and encouraged to join.

RECs play an essential role in ensuring research is ethical and fair and person centred and it’s vital they reflect our communities.

I would urge anyone with an interest in research to consider joining a REC. It’s a great way to give back and make a difference.

I've been with the same committee since 2017 and I’ve learnt so much. I’m now a vice-Chair and I'm looking forward to becoming Chair in March 2023.

Isabelle Butcher

Isabelle Butcher, vice-Chair of Greater Manchester East Research Ethics Committee

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