In the first gathering of its kind, the HREC Leaders ’22 Summit, brought together nearly 80 experts in the field to share knowledge, create new professional networks and learn from others.

The Summit opened with a keynote address by Australian Health Ethics Committee member, Professor Ingrid Winship AO, who provided insights into the roles and responsibilities of ethics committees, the changing nature of ethics and the implications for research.

Workshops held across two sessions encouraged active participation from delegates on topics including how to ensure research design and quality of a clinical trial, issues of consent, the challenges of genetic research and best practice for consumer involvement in research design.

Summit delegates were invited to propose a ‘tricky' issue for discussion on the day. Topics raised for debate included what level of risk committees are willing to accept, the use of recruitment through social media, and whether data stewards should be members of HRECs.

Sydney Health Partners’ Research Director, Associate Professor Angela Todd, closed the summit with brief reflections on the history of research in Australia. “Australian research is highly respected around the world,” she said, “and that is due in part to the significant impact that ethics committees have had on improving research standards and conduct.”

Following the success of the event, SPHERE and SHP have begun discussions about holding another HREC Leaders Summit in 2023.

“The vast majority of delegates said they were either satisfied or very satisfied with the experience and expressed a keen interest in attending a similar summit in the future,” said Associate Professor Todd. “There was an overall sense that this coming together was a celebration of the role and value of ethics committees and the important contribution they make to the research process.”

Associate Professor Todd thanked Sydney Health Partners’ Clinical Trials Manager, Joan Torony, and SPHERE’s Project Officer Clinical Trials, Merrilee Kessler for organising the Summit.