Ethics & Human Research
Navigating Informed Consent Requirements and Expectations in Cluster Randomized Trials: Research Ethics Board Members’ and Researchers’ Views
ABSTRACT Informed consent is a cornerstone of ethical human research. However, as cluster randomized trials (CRTs) are increasingly popular to evaluate health service interventions, especially as health systems aspire toward the learning health system, questions abound how research teams and research ethics boards (REBs) should navigate intertwining consent and data-use considerations. Methodological and ethical questions include who constitute the participants, whose and what types of consent are necessary, and how data from people who have not consented to participation should be managed to optimize the balance of trust in the research enterprise, respect for persons, the promotion of data integrity, and the pursuit of the public good in the research arena. In this paper, we report the findings and lessons learned from a qualitative study examining how researchers and REB members consider the ethical dimensions of when data can be collected and used in CRTs in the evolving research landscape.