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Variation in Ethics Review for Tertiary-Based Educational Research: an International and Interdisciplinary Cross-Sectional Review

Abstract

The expansion of ethics review, beyond its origins in medical research, is the subject of growing critical analysis internationally, especially from social science researchers. Our study builds on this analysis by considering ethics review specifically within tertiary-based educational research. As a foundation for a larger study, we explore the reporting of ethics review within articles from a snapshot of education journals. A cross-sectional review considered 125 articles from 24 journals spanning medical and nurse education, the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, and educational technology. Among similar types of research our findings highlight variation in institutional ethical review processes and outcomes. Despite most journals providing guidelines for reporting ethics review, adherence to these guidelines by authors or editors was not always evident, but more likely in health-related education journals. We argue that identified areas of variation may reflect the differing influence and proximity of biomedical values. This influence has been under examined in tertiary-based educational research but may contribute to inequitable learning, researching and publishing experiences, potentially adding to negative sentiment about ethics review.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. Ethics review bodies are commonplace internationally but are known by a range of titles. These include Ethics Committees (ECs) in New Zealand, Human Research Ethics Committees (HRECs) in Australia, Research Ethics Committees (RECs) in the UK, Research Ethics Boards (REBs) in Canada and Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) in the United States.

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Lees, A.B., Walters, S. & Godbold, R. Variation in Ethics Review for Tertiary-Based Educational Research: an International and Interdisciplinary Cross-Sectional Review. J Acad Ethics 19, 517–540 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10805-020-09382-1

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Keywords

  • Research ethics
  • Scholarship of teaching and learning
  • Biomedical values
  • Ethics committees
  • Institutional review boards
  • Publication ethics