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Med J Aust. 2010 Mar 1;192(5):275-80.

Ethics review of multisite studies: the difficult case of community-based indigenous health research.

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Melbourne School of Population Health, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, VIC, Australia.


Researchers have longstanding concerns about the logistical and administrative burdens posed by ethics review of multisite studies involving human participants. Centralised ethics review, in which approval by one committee has authority across multiple sites, is widely touted as a strategy for streamlining the process. The Harmonisation of Multi-centre Ethical Review (HoMER) project is currently developing such a system for Australia. It is unclear how centralised review will work for multisite Indigenous health research, where the views of local stakeholders are important and community consultation is mandatory. Our recent experience in conducting the National Indigenous Eye Health Survey (NIEHS) shows how elaborate the current ethics approval and community consultation processes can be, and points to several lessons and ideas to guide pending reforms.

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