An evaluation of the ethical concerns of a social science research ethics committee using the principles and benchmarks proposed by Emanuel et al. (2004).
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Since the exposure of human rights abuses in research, there has over the years been extensive progress made in development of international ethical guidelines for conduct of ethical research and for protecting research participants. Broadly, this research aimed at identifying the ethical issues that an REC considers important when reviewing protocols. The research also intended to bring about an understanding of whether the Emanuel et al. framework captures all the issues that an REC raises when reviewing protocols. More specifically, the study aim was to identify the main ethical issues raised during ethics review of research proposals and to assess their relative weight using Emanuel et al.’s (2004) recommended principles of ethics review of clinical research. The study used content analysis of records of minutes of a social science research ethics committee (hereafter referred to as InstX) REC for the period of 2012 to 2013. In the sample of ten minutes, a total of 64 applications were reviewed by the InstX REC. The frequency of the principles used by the REC in reviewing protocols was identified. The four most frequently raised concerns ranked in descending order: were informed consent, scientific validity, fair participant selection and respect for participants. Other ethical issues raised by the REC when reviewing protocols were social value, favourable risk-benefit ratio, independent review and collaborative partnership. A few issues considered not part of the Emanuel et al. framework, such as mistakes and missing information, were also identified. Thus the Emanuel et al. (2014) framework is relevant to social science research, even though it was initially developed for clinical research.