Published:

New National Research Ethics Committee for COVID-19 research

The committee will be an essential component of Ireland’s coordinated research response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As part of Ireland’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and in line with a recommendation in the WHO Roadmap for Research and Development, the Minister for Health has established a temporary National Research Ethics Committee (NREC) for COVID-19 to accelerate the process for ethics review for all COVID-19-related research studies.

The Committee, supported by the newly established Office for National Research Ethics Committees, will accelerate the ethical approval of urgent studies clearly positioned to provide evidence for national and global efforts to deal with the COVID-19 public health emergency.

The NREC for COVID-19 is currently comprised of 15 expert and non-expert members, representing a wide range of knowledge, backgrounds and experience to ensure the highest standards of ethics review while delivering swift decisions.

‘Supporting the NREC COVID-19 in their work is an essential first order of business for the Office for National Research Ethics Committees and is testament to the ambition of this Office to enable a single national opinion for ethics in areas of national importance’, says Dr Jennifer Ralph James, Head of the Office of National Research Ethics Committees. 

The Committee will review applications for ethics approval for all COVID-19-related research studies that come under the definition of ‘Health Research’ under the Health Research Regulations 2018. This definition incorporates a broad spectrum of research including basic research, translational research, clinical research, diagnostics and treatment, population health research, social research, health services research and applied health policy research. 

The NREC for COVID-19 is working in close communication with the Department of Health and other bodies involved in the regulation and support of health research including the Health Protection Regulatory Authority (HPRA) and Health Research Consent Declaration Committee. This means that the ethics review process for COVID-19-related research will run in parallel and in coordination with regulatory and consent declaration processes. To streamline the process for the research community, requirements for both the NREC for COVID-19 and the HRCDC are incorporated into a single form for submission. 

To find out more information on the NREC for COVID-19 or how to apply for ethics approval please visit - https://www.hrb.ie/covid-19-ethical-review/nrec-covid-19-overview/