Combined Calendar of Human Research Ethics Committee Meetings Helps Sydney Health Partners’ Researchers

The Sydney Health Partners calendar makes it easier for researchers to find the next available, relevant HREC meeting across the Partnership to which they can submit their research for ethics review. By displaying all dates in a single place, the calendar allows users to filter for meetings depending on their research needs.

Researchers who want to conduct health and medical research in the NSW public health system must receive ethics approval from an appropriate HREC, however this approval can be from any HREC that falls within the National Mutual Acceptance agreement.

Within Sydney Health Partners there are five ethics committees across the health service partners, which collectively hold three or four meetings a week, offering researchers multiple opportunities to submit their work for review.

Associate Professor Geoff Herkes, chair of the Northern Sydney Human Research Ethics Committee has worked on the project since its inception. He sees this combined calendar as an opportunity to smooth the path for researchers before they submit projects for ethics review.

“It’s an important initiative which gives as much information as possible to researchers in an accessible format, so that they can move their projects along smoothly,” he said.

At NSLHD, where they grant up to 200 human research ethics approvals a year, roughly one quarter come from researchers outside of the District.

“There’s an enormous pressure for research to be done yesterday – and getting the upfront administration done, including ethics, is sometimes seen by researchers as a hurdle,” said Rebeka Freckleton, Research Strategy and Partnerships Manager at NSLHD, who worked with the cross-Partnership team that oversaw the project.

“Anything we can do to improve efficiency and make things easier for researchers is a good thing,” she said.

Screenshot of calendar of HREC Meeting dates.

The project forms part of the research enablers platform of Sydney Heath Partners’ 2019-2021 Strategy, which is led by NSLHD and supported by staff from research offices across the Partnership. The collaboration works with Sydney Health Partners to find new ways to make the process of health and medical research in health services more efficient for researchers, while ensuring that patients and participants remain protected.

Sydney Health Partners Executive Director Don Nutbeam says the project is a model example of the Health District Partners working together for mutual benefit.

“Sydney Health Partners is committed to supporting our Partners as we advance research translation, together,” he said.

“Through this project the Districts have acknowledged that more unified review processes will help researchers move forward with their work sooner and deliver benefits to patients faster.”