Ethics review, reflective equilibrium and reflexivity

Morton, JW ORCID: 2022, 'Ethics review, reflective equilibrium and reflexivity' , Nursing Ethics, 29 (1) , pp. 49-62.

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Background: Research Ethics Committees (RECs) or their equivalent review applications for prospective research with human participants. Reviewers use universally agreed principles to make decisions about whether prospective health and social care research is ethical. Close attention to understanding how reviewers go about their decision-making work and consider principles in practice, is limited. Objective: The study aimed to understand how reviewers made decisions in the contexts of meetings and to understand more about how reviewers approach their work. The purpose of this article is to draw on data and findings and to show how Reflective Equilibrium (RE) as a theoretical frame can (1) deepen understanding of ethics review; and, (2) permit a reflexive examination of the habitual processes of review. Design and participants: Methods captured the day to day work of the RECs. Seventeen applications were heard during 8 observations. There were 12 formal interviews with reviewers (n=12) and with researchers (n=8) which are not reported on in this article. Ethical considerations: Organisational approval for the study was given by X whose functions became part of XX during the study. The study was given favourable opinion by the University of Salford’s Research Ethics Committee (Reference HSR11/17). Findings: Data were analysed using constructed grounded theory resulting in eight themes which revealed attention to procedure and engagement with applications. RE was used as a qualitative frame to interpret themes distilling them into three processes at work in review: emotion and intuition; imagination and creative thinking; intuition and trust. Discussion: Reviewers went back and forth between universal principles, considered these in the contexts of each application using the above processes. Conclusions: RE offers a coherent and grounded account of review work. Reflexivity in training for reviewers is essential for improving practices. The challenges reflexivity presents can be assisted by using RE as a tool to illuminate tacit review processes.

Item Type: Article
Schools: Schools > School of Health and Society
Journal or Publication Title: Nursing Ethics
Publisher: SAGE Publications
ISSN: 0969-7330
Related URLs:
Depositing User: JW Morton
Date Deposited: 05 May 2021 15:05
Last Modified: 25 Feb 2022 08:30

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