Update on Ethics at CIHR
Release of second Ethics Performance Measurement Report and Standing Committee on Ethics updates

(2018-06-07) At CIHR, we are committed to supporting and promoting health research that meets the highest standards of excellence and ethics. Together with the Standing Committee on Ethics (SCE), we are pleased to release our second Ethics Performance Measurement Report (April 2016 – March 2017). Framed by CIHR's Ethics Action Plan, the report details CIHR's performance against the metrics set out in the Ethics Performance Measurement Strategy. We encourage everyone to read the report to learn more about CIHR's ongoing efforts to meet its commitments under the Ethics Action Plan.

Since the last update in December 2016, new Governing Council member, Marcello Tonelli has been appointed to the role of Chair of the SCE, effective April 2018. Judy Illes was elected by the Committee to serve as Vice Chair as of July 2017. Several new members joined the SCE over the past few months: Angus Dawson, Chelsea Gabel, Dafna Feinholz Klip, Cheryl Koehn, Ubaka Ogbogu, and Benjamin Wilfond. Yves Joanette joined the committee as one of two CIHR Scientific Director members. Vasiliki (Vaso) Rahimzadeh joined the Committee in the new role of Student Observer created by the SCE, providing opportunities to Canada's students to interact with leading ethicists in our country on issues that relate to health research, and reciprocally offering important perspectives to SCE members.

Over the past 17 months, the Standing Committee on Ethics met five times to discuss ethics issues and provide guidance to CIHR as they pertain, for example, to:

  • disruptive technologies, gene drive research, and artificial intelligence;
  • patient engagement;
  • data management;
  • benefit-risk assessments for CIHR partnerships; and
  • conflict of interest on the evolving cannabis research landscape.

In an effort to strengthen ethics education, CIHR and the Public Health Agency of Canada have created an Introductory Course on Dual-use in Life Science Research. This course is designed to increase awareness of dual-use research and to promote the responsible conduct of research among scientists, educators, institutional administrators, biological safety and security professionals, funding organizations, policy- and decision-makers, and the public. Furthermore, the revised version of the workbook "Ethics in Research: A Science Lifecycle Approach" is now available on the CIHR website. The workbook consists of a Knowledge-to-Action/Ethics (KTA/E) framework and a series of scenarios to which an ethics lens is applied and discussed.

Finally, CIHR is leading the development of an ethics guidance document to promote the meaningful engagement of patients as active collaborators in research. The CIHR Ethics Office presented an update on the project at the Canadian Association of Research Ethics Boards 2018 Annual Conference, and hosted a workshop on this topic at the Canadian Bioethics Society Annual Conference 2018. A public consultation to seek guidance on this project will be launched in the coming months.  

As part of our ongoing dialogue with the ethics research community, some members of the SCE presented an update on CIHR's ethics activities at a panel session at the 2018 Annual Conference of the Canadian Bioethics Society. We look forward to ongoing opportunities to engage with the community.

If you have not done so already, I encourage you to subscribe to the health ethics funding opportunity bulletins for regular updates on funding opportunities that may be relevant to your area of research.

Anne Martin-Matthews, O.C., Ph.D., FCAHS
Acting Vice-President, Research, Knowledge Translation and Ethics

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