UCL Health Humanities Centre


Research Ethics Committees: Help or Hindrance?

Research Ethics Committees: Help or Hindrance?

Two day open conference 12th and 13th November 2009

Selected presentations now available on this website. See programme below for links.


We are pleased to announce an academic conference on research ethics committees followed by an open workshop to propose ways to streamline regulation.

While ethics committees are now a familiar feature of research institutions especially within the NHS, academic work on their role, remit and function is still in its infancy. The theme for the conference is how effective ethics committees are in reducing risks to subjects of research without over-burdening researchers with bureaucracy. Ethics committees for research in social science and in journalism are often not thought as important as they are in medicine for example because the risks associated with each are different. The burdens on medical researchers might thus be justified by the risks to their subjects. However, ethics committee reviewing medical research proposals may lack the scientific expertise to review the science directly themselves and so make sound judgements about the risks involved. Since the science is reviewed independently, ethics committees have to judge which reviews to trust and so which projects to approve. The sessions will address this governance distinction between reviewing science and ethics.

This event is supported by the National Research Ethics Service, the UCLH/UCL Comprehensive Biomedical Research Centre, and the UCL Centre for Philosophy, Justice and Health.

Full Programme

Day one

9.30 - 10.00 Registration and Coffee

10.00 - 10.30 A European perspective on ethics review, Dr Mihail Kritikos (Ethics Review Division, European Commission)

10.30 - 11.00 An analysis of REC decisions and deliberations, Dr Hugh Davies (NRES)

11.00 - 11.30 Coffee

11.30 - 12.15 Research, conflicting duties and independent review, Dr Sarah JL Edwards (UCL)

12.15 - 1.00 Questioning Ethical Regulation in the Humanities and Social Sciences: Whose rights are we respecting? Professor Robert Dingwall (University of Nottingham)

1.00 - 2.00 Lunch

2.00 - 2.45 In Defence of Governance: Ethics and Social Research, Dr Mark Sheehan and Dr. Michael Dunn (Oxford University)

2.45 - 3.30 When science is good enough, Dr David Hunter (Keele University)

3.30 - 4.00 Tea

4.00 - 4.45 The TGN1412 clinical trial: a 'normal' accident, Professor Adam Hedgecoe (Cardiff University)

4.45 - 5.00 Review

5.00 End of Day One

Day Two

9.30 - 10.00 Experiences of a Researcher, Professor Nora Groce (UCL)

10.00 - 11.00  How can RECs trust prior scientific review?, Professor Suzanne Uniacke (University of Hull)

11.00 - 11.30 Break

11.30 - 12.30 Which experts to trust?, Dr Patrick Brown (University of Kent)

12.30 - 1.30 Lunch

1.30 - 2.30 Panel discussion

2.30 - 3.00 Break

3.00 - 3.45 Proposing Guidelines

3.45 - 4.00 Next steps

4.00 Close



Royal College of Physicians, 11 St Andrews Place, Regent’s Park, NW1 4LE

Day 1: Dorchester Library

Day 2: Linacre Room

Click here for directions and map

12th and 13th November 2009.

Attendance at the conference is free. However space is limited, so we advise you to register early. To register, please email cbrc-courses@ucl.ac.uk and await confirmation. Please say whether you have any special dietary requirements, and don't forget to include your institutional affiliation, if any, for the name badges.

Unfortunately we cannot book accommodation for conference delegates, but you can find details of local hotels here and here.

Other queries
For any queries (other than for conference registration), please contact the organiser Sarah Edwards at sarah.edwards@ucl.ac.uk.