International Coordination of Research Ethics Review: An Adequacy Model

Philosophies 6 (4):93 (2021)
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Abstract

International direct-to-participant (DTP) genomics research involves the use of mobile technology to recruit, consent, and study participants remotely. This model can facilitate research across broad geographies and many countries, but must also comply with the norms of multiple recruitment jurisdictions, with each jurisdiction typically requiring at least one local research ethics review. Each additional research ethics review increases bureaucratic hurdles without necessarily strengthening the protection of participants’ rights and interests. For DTP genomic research, obtaining a review may in fact be impossible in the absence of a local research partner. This paper proposes an “adequacy” approach, inspired by data protection law, to coordinate the regulation and oversight of international DTP genomics research. This involves one country voluntarily assessing whether another country’s research ethics reviews are equivalent to its own, in terms of objectives and effectiveness. Ethics-approved projects led by researchers from countries recognized as adequate are deemed to comply with local norms, eliminating the need for a duplicative local review. Adequacy preserves the sovereignty of countries to determine their own regulatory aims and which other countries to trust. It therefore provides a voluntary, incremental path towards greater global coordination of health research oversight.

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