Final report on ethics review mutual recognition in COVID-19 pandemic

The final report summarizing the findings of a project on ethics review mutual recognition in a pandemic context is now available.

Ethics review mutual recognition refers to a system where the decisions of one Research Ethics Committee (REC) are accepted by another, based on shared procedural standards.

The project, conducted in collaboration with the COVID-19 Clinical Research Coalition’s Ethics Working Group and funded by WHO, examined the challenges and opportunities of ethics review mutual recognition for multi-site COVID-19 research protocols.

The project findings included that factors influencing whether, and how, to pursue ethics review mutual recognition differed by region, and that improving trust among RECs is an incremental, yet essential step towards harmonizing REC policy and ensuring that research protections everywhere are equitable.

The COVID-19 pandemic has intensified the need for timely, rigorous, and accessible scientific evidence to guide the development of tools and policies for the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of COVID-19, as well as guidance on clinical management.

Clinical research often takes place in collaboration between partners across different clinical sites and countries, and then faces multiple layers of ethical review by the RECs of different countries or institutions. Staggered ethics review risks delaying research, increasing administrative burdens, and applying inconsistent protections to study populations, whilst not increasing protections for research participants.

Originally proposed to facilitate international research in the field of genomic sciences, ethics review mutual recognition has yet to be widely considered as an approach during public health emergencies or in low- and middle-income countries.


Photo credit: Xavier Vahed-DNDi