Research Governance & Ethics

Within Western Australia there are 20 Human Research Ethics Committees (HREC) registered with the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC); of these 17 fall within the jurisdiction of the WA Health Translation Network. In addition, four of these HRECs are certified by the NHMRC to undertake the ethical review of multi-centre human research at a national level.

In 2012, a research governance framework (framework) was introduced across WA’s public health organisations (WA Health) to standardise the ethics and governance application and monitoring processes across its eight HRECs and their affiliated Research Governance (RG) Offices. This framework included the adoption of a WA Health-wide research governance policy, standard operating procedures and suite of standard forms. Information and forms related to the framework are hosted in one central repository on the WA Department of Health website. In addition, to reduce duplication of ethical review and to align with the NHMRC’s processes for multi-centre research, single ethical review was introduced across WA Health in 2013.

WA Health works closely with WAHTN members who are involved with conducting research within the public sector hospitals, through education and agreements, to ensure that they are aware of and comply with research governance processes. Through these arrangements, WA Health HRECs also provide the ethical review for research conducted at some of WA’s research institutes; and many WA universities provide reciprocal HREC approval based on WA Health’s ethical review decisions.

In July 2016, the Health Services Act 2016 was introduced to create Health Service Providers (HSPs) as statutory authorities. These HSPs are bound by a research policy framework to ensure service coordination and integration, and efficiency and effectiveness in the provision of research across WA Health. The HSPs are now establishing centralised research governance units to provide a service across each statutory authority. In the future, there may also be further collaboration with WAHTN members to have central RG offices across multiple institutes.

In December 2016, the Western Australian Department of Health implemented the Research Governance Service (RGS) information technology system to support the Research Governance Framework for conducting human research projects within WA Health. The RGS supports the standardisation of governance processes throughout the life cycle of a project, including authorisation, monitoring, project closure and publications.

All researchers conducting research within WA Health or accessing WA Health participants, their tissue or data must use the RGS to submit their ethics and governance applications to WA Health Human Research Ethics Committees and Research Governance Offices.