Taimoor Hassan blogs about the important role the HRA approvals team provides to Research Ethics Committees and why greater diversity in research is essential.
I joined the Health Research Authority (HRA) in 2020 after I graduated from the University of Leeds with a bachelors’ honours degree in Human Nutrition. It was during my time at Leeds that I became interested in health research.
As part of my degree, I conducted a research project on whether drinking hibiscus tea can reduce blood glucose levels in people with Type 2 diabetes. I had to apply for ethics approval, which was a fascinating experience. I had to design a protocol, participant information sheet and a consent form to conduct the research. This was successfully reviewed by the Ethics Committee. This led to my interest in research ethics.
When I graduated from university, I knew I wanted to be involved in research, so I was pleased to get the HRA approvals administrator job. I didn’t know much about the HRA, and I found the role challenging at first, but I felt very supported by my colleagues in the approvals team who helped me find my feet.
I support the approvals team to process research applications that need an ethics review. This involves responding to queries from researchers about their applications and providing advice.
I also support three Research Ethics Committees (REC) and I facilitate their committee meetings. I attend around two to three meetings a month and it is my responsibility to make sure the meetings run smoothly. I ensure the research committee received the relevant documents for the meeting. I also take the minutes for each meeting and record what decisions were taken about the studies they reviewed.
It is a busy role and like all jobs it can be challenging, but it’s extremely rewarding. I work closely with my colleagues, and I have a great relationship with the REC chairs and members I support.
I feel really privileged to be able to support and facilitate important health and social care research studies. Knowing that these studies will make an enormous difference to people’s lives is extremely rewarding.
I felt especially proud during the pandemic when we were able to approve COVID-19 research in a matter of days. It’s great knowing that I played a part in an important moment in our history.
Research ethics is important because it provides reassurance to the public and the research community and it helps improve our healthcare system.
But as someone from a Pakistani background who grew up in Portugal, I think we can do more to make research more inclusive.
We need to increase the diversity of RECs and research participants to ensure that research reflects the diversity of our society.
I think this would help to improve the quality of research and help to ensure that we are all able to benefit from it.
The HRA is committed to improving diversity in research, which is fantastic, but we need action from across the research sector.
I’ve really enjoyed my time at the HRA, and my ambition is to progress further in my role and become an approvals specialist and help create stronger links between the health research community and the community I’m from.
Taimoor Hassan, HRA Approvals Administrator