Research ethics committees (REC) are key to protect the rights, safety, and dignity of research participants.
These committees emerged in the field of medical research in the middle of the twentieth century. Their emergence was driven by the need to address ethical concerns, protect vulnerable populations, and ensure the responsible conduct of research that directly impacts human health and well-being. For this reason, KIT has had a Research and Ethics Committee since 2009, specifically for our work in Global Health.
As an international knowledge, research, and training institute, KIT is committed to ethical research. And following global trends over the past decades which saw the role and scope of RECs expanded to cover other disciplines beyond medicine, including social sciences and behavioural research, KIT has expanded the Committee so it serves the entire Knowledge Unit – including our work on Sustainable Development and Gender. Now both medical and social science ethical guidelines require an ethical review of research that involves human participants.
KIT REC also reviews the research projects of the master’s students for the post-graduate courses we offer. It helps our students gain ethical clearance for their research and as this is fast becoming a pre-requisite for many journals it makes the process of getting published in research journals a lot smoother.
“We’ve used various international guidelines to inform our process. Whether we grant ethical clearance depends on whether the research meets our four principles: the research should maximise the benefit for the participants or broader population, it must cause no harm, it must respect the rights and dignity of participants, and the benefits and risks of the research should be fairly distributed,” says Rob Kuijpers, team lead for Impact Economics and co-chair for the committee.
The terms of reference for this committee were also updated in April 2023. Read more about this and the review process here.
“This review is not without its challenges. It is time-consuming for our KIT advisors, and sometimes can be perceived as unnecessary ‘red-tape’. But we’ve been able to make progress on this front by streamlining the process internally while making it GDPR compliant as well,” explains Sandra Alba, senior epidemiologist at KIT who co-chairs the committee with Rob.