IRB: Ethics & Human Research

Enhancing Research Ethics Decision-Making: An REB Decision Bank

In both law and ethics, precedent shapes the deliberation of novel issues. Despite the interconnection between new and old decisions, few research ethics boards (REBs) have an explicit mechanism for archiving issue-based research ethics decisions to inform future decisions. With the intent of promoting expediency, consistency, and accountability in REB decision-making, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre implemented a “decision bank”: a formal mechanism for systematically capturing institutional REB decisions. We describe the development of the decision bank, its implementation, and the lessons we have learned from both. The decision bank, which is categorized by general issue themes such as consent, study design, and privacy, is still in the early implementation phase, but it provides a much-needed method to address the paucity of formal mechanisms and literature in a biomedical field otherwise inundated with evidence-based information.

Key words/concepts: human subjects research, research ethics boards, institutional review boards, decision bank, issue-based decisions, decision-making consistency

Sally Bean, Blair Henry, J. Michelle Kinsey, Keitha McMurray, Catherine Parry, and Tiffany Tassopoulos, “Enhancing Research Ethics Decision-Making: An REB Decision Bank,” IRB: Ethics & Human Research 32, no. 6 (2010): 9-12.