The Chief Medical Officer for England, Chris Whitty, has praised the volunteers who make up the 64 Research Ethics Committees in England.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, volunteer members have been meeting remotely to review studies under the fast-track process, providing ethics review in under 24 hours to the studies with the highest public health priority.
Recognising the significant personal contribution of REC members to the research response to coronavirus, Professor Whitty passed on his thanks for their work carried out at speed without compromising standards.
Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer
Thank you for your dedication, hard work and flexibility in ensuring a fast turnaround of COVID-19 research applications while safeguarding the interests of would-be research participants. The UK Research Ethics Service, and the volunteers at its core, have risen to the challenge presented by COVID-19. Since early March 2020, thanks to your commitment, more than 600 COVID-19 research applications have received ethical review within extremely tight timelines, some as quickly as 24 hours from receipt of application.
I fully appreciate your unstinting commitment in making yourselves available to join ad hoc committees, and meeting at short notice in order to review urgent public health research studies, NIHR research and other important COVID-19 studies. As a result of your dedication, vital research projects have been reviewed promptly, with fast-turnaround times whilst, at the same time, maintaining high standards of research ethical review in order to ensure the interests of participants are protected. In addition, you have ensured that RECs are able to review non-COVID research, providing the same high-quality service to researchers. You have achieved all this while at the same time balancing your own work and life commitments.
The spread of COVID-19 is one the biggest public health challenges we have faced, and research has a key role to play in the fight against it. Research is helping us to develop diagnostic tests, treatments and vaccines and to prevent and manage the spread of the virus and I thank you for your unceasing contribution to that fight.
The HRA's 850 REC member volunteers have reviewed almost 650 COVID-19 research studies since the start of the pandemic.
Professor Andy Hall, Chair of Newcastle and North Tyneside 2 REC wrote about the challenges and opportunities of remote ethics review in his blog.
The HRA is recruiting new REC members who would like to contribute to high quality health and social care research.