Ethics Review Panel made permanent fixture by RCVS Council

22 January 2019

The RCVS Ethics Review Panel has been made a permanent service provided by the College after RCVS Council members unanimously voted for it to become a permanent group reporting to the Standards Committee.

The Panel was started on a trial basis in July 2016, with the aim of providing a route for ethics review for veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses conducting practice-based research who might not otherwise have access to an ethics review system in academia and industry.

Although the trial was only originally concerned with research projects related to small animals, over its course it was expanded to include equine and farm animal-based research as well, with members of the Panel representing a wide range of subject areas as well as veterinary nurse and lay representation.

Since July 2016, the Panel has received some 71 applications from practice-based researchers for ethics review, of which 23 have now been granted full approval from the members. Of the 71 applications received so far, 41 concerned research about dogs, seven about cats, four about farm animals, two about equids, five about other species, two related to social studies, three concerned both cats and dogs, and seven were unclassified.

Professor David Morton CBE, a veterinary ethicist, chairs the Panel and said: “We are delighted that the members of RCVS Council saw fit to establish the Ethics Review Panel on a permanent basis. Ethics should be a key consideration in any research project involving animals to ensure that the health and welfare of those involved in any study are a primary concern and that questions of ‘ought we do this’ are considered alongside ‘can we do this’.

"As a veterinarian and ethicist it has been very gratifying for me that the Ethics Review Panel has been there to help guide researchers and help safeguard both animal health and welfare. It is also of benefit to the researchers as many veterinary journals now ask for evidence of ethics review and approval as a precondition of publishing papers.”

Over the course of the two years since the pilot was launched, there has been a steady increase in the number of applications received by the Panel. The remaining applications that have not received full approval are currently under review to give the researchers guidance on how they can make their research more scientifically and ethically sound in the expectation that, with some amendments, it will be approved.

Dr Kate Richards, Chair of our Standards Committee, added: “The feedback received about the Panel suggests that it was an invaluable resource for practice-based vets and vet nurses who may not have access to the same resources as their colleagues working in the universities or for commercial companies. Comments from participants have also mentioned how vital this service was, and they were impressed that it was free as well.

"One thing we will be doing over the coming months is recruiting more panel members and also working to ensure that applications are acknowledged and processed in a more timely manner, as this is one area in which some of the feedback was quite critical. Not only will the Panel provide access to practice-based researchers but will ensure that their work will be eligible for publication and, often at the same time, adding to the evidence base for veterinary medicine.”

Further details about the Ethics Review Panel, how to make an application and the process by which it makes determinations on applications can be found on the Panel's dedicated website.

Anyone who is potentially interested in becoming a Panel member is encouraged to contact our Advice and Standards Team for an initial discussion of the role on ethics@rcvs.org.uk

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