Workshop on participation and interaction: RECs, researchers & the public

Research ethics committees would benefit from advise on when and how to involve lay people in their work. They may also need advise on how to review the social value of research projects. These were some of the points made in a recent PRO-Ethics workshop.

To gather insights from members of research ethics committees (RECs) on ethics and participation, the European Network of Research Ethics Committees (EUREC) held a workshop in Berlin in June 2022 on behalf of the PRO-Ethics project. The workshop brought together 25 REC members.

Two central questions were the focus of the workshop:
1. What are the responsibilities of RECs with regard to engaging society?
2. What do REC members need to consider when involving lay people in ethical review processes?

Both questions were lively discussed in a world café session. A preliminary outcome of the workshop is that RECs need advice on when and how to involve lay people in their work. Lay representation on ethics committees is common practice across Europe and is recommended in the Council of Europe's Guide for Members of Research Ethics Committees.

The workshop showed that many questions related to lay participation are unclear, e.g. Who is a lay person? What is the value of involving lay people in the review of research projects? How do you recruit lay people? What are the responsibilities of RECs towards lay people? What ethical challenges may arise when involving lay people in the ethical review process?

Another important issue for RECs in relation to ethics and participation is the 'social value of research'. Research and innovation aim to create new knowledge for the benefit of our society. When reviewing research projects, RECs may need to consider whether a research project has social value. However, the question is what benefits our society and how to balance individual and social value. RECs might need advice on how to proceed here. The results of the workshop will be analysed and used by PRO-Ethics to improve the final ethics framework, the main project deliverable.

Illustration photo: PRO-Ethics/Plott
Published: 27.06.2022