Unless your application is being processed under the Proportionate Review Service, you should attend the Research Ethics Committee (REC) meeting if possible. Please check directly with the Approvals Officer if you would like to dial in to the meeting by phone.
All the designated staff contact numbers and the REC designated email addresses can be found on the HRA REC Directory pages.
What happens at a REC meeting?
Between seven and 15 volunteer members of the REC will be present at the meeting, together with HRA staff attending for minute taking and to provide technical advice and support. It is a formal committee meeting, but the REC will wish to make this a positive and helpful experience.
On occasion there may also be an observer(s) present. If this is the case the Chair of the REC will inform you and ask if you have any objections to their presence. (Please note all observers who are not attending the REC in an official capacity will sign a confidentiality agreement.)
The committee will ask you questions surrounding ethical issues arising from a review of your application to seek reassurance that all ethical issues have been addressed. You should be ready to provide clarification in respect of any ethical issues that the committee may raise with you. It is helpful if you have a copy of your application form and study documents with you to refer to when you attend the meeting.
Alongside any ethical issues raised, there may also be further queries raised by an attending HRA staff member regarding the HRA Assessment element of your application review. These queries can on occasion be directly linked to certain ethical issues that have been raised by the committee.
If your study forms part of an academic qualification then we strongly advise that your academic or clinical supervisor attends the meeting with you. This gives the REC the opportunity to clarify any points directly with your supervisor.
You will not need to take notes as the Approvals Officer will take minutes, which will form part of the decision letter sent to you.
Attending a REC meeting by telephone
Research Ethics Committees find it very helpful to be able to meet and talk to researchers at the REC meeting in order to help address any misunderstandings and to discuss any matters relating to the ethics of the application. If you are not able to attend in person, it is possible to make arrangements to dial into a REC meeting by telephone. If this is your chosen arrangement, you will need to be aware of the following key considerations:
- As with all meetings; timings can overrun and therefore if you have decided to dial in you must consider that the agreed time slot for the review of your application may be delayed and factor this in when planning your availability. Every effort will be made to stick to the agenda timings, but overruns can occur.
- It will normally be the chair of the committee who contacts you. The committee meets in a private room that ensures confidentiality and we ask you to ensure that you are also in a quiet, private, confidential environment when receiving the call. If you have colleagues who would like to listen to the discussion, that is fine however, it is generally more practical if just one person provides the responses back to the Committee.
- The call to you will normally be placed on a relevant speaker system so that the attending committee members can hear the questions being raised and your responses. This is to support the committee in their ethical decision making. Often, but not exclusively, questions will normally be raised by the chair of the committee who will introduce themselves to you and clearly raise the ethical issues that require clarification.
- Finally, please ensure that you have confirmed with the supporting REC staff your most appropriate contact number for the call. It is a recommended that a landline rather than a mobile number is used. Although the HRA makes every effort to ensure that the rooms booked for these meetings have appropriate telecommunications accessibility, sometimes calling out is difficult due to the location of the meeting venue.