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HREC Self Evaluation Guide


1. Determine your purpose and scope

It is important for HRECs to clarify the purpose and scope of an evaluation and the audience. A simple review of the committee’s function can be as simple as affirming that all basic requirements (policies and procedures) are established and up-to-date. But an evaluation requires a broader and deep review of a committee’s functionality.

Questions to ask:

  1. Are we planning to review the processes we rely on or use when we review applications? (an evaluation)

Elements of committee work for evaluation can include composition and competence, committee dynamics, ethical guidance, and the quality of the communication with applicants and other stakeholders.

An evaluation may include questions such as:

  • Is the composition of the committee best suited to the committee’s needs? (e.g. do we have the requisite set of skills and life experiences?)
  • How healthy is the committee’s culture? (e.g. the personal and collective styles of communication and debate within a committee)
  • Is the level of commitment to, and shared understanding of, the relevant ethical principles optimal?
  • Does the Chair’s style contribute positively to effective decision-making?
  • Are the decision-making processes producing quality reviews of applications?
  • Are the committee’s decisions consistent with the requirements of the National Statement and communicated clearly to researchers?

An Evaluation is a process that requires judgement rather than measurement. It asks questions such as, “How well is this program/ committee performing? Why are we doing well/not so well? What could we do better?” It is an analytical process that aims to provide an assessment regarding the effectiveness and efficiency of a committee’s roles and tasks. An evaluation might involve the gathering and analysis of both qualitative and quantitative evidence.

2. Are we planning to only review the HREC’s policies and procedures? (generally understood as an audit)

A review or assessment of policies and procedures as elements of an HREC’s work can include:

  • Review of HREC Terms of Reference (TOR) and/or Standard Operating Procedures (SOP)
  • Consideration of the number of applications considered and approved/not approved in period of time (eg. past 12 months compared to past 3 years)
  • Assessment of performance against benchmarks or key performance indicators (KPIs), such as set timelines for the HREC consideration or approval of applications
  • Administrative functions, including submission processes, documentation requirements, allocation of reviews to members, post-meeting processes
  • Adequacy of the resourcing commensurate with the volume of the committee’s work

An Audit asks the question, “Does the work of this program/ committee meet predetermined standards?”. The process of audit is primarily observational; it assesses whether a committee/ /program is meeting the basic or minimum required standards by measuring compliance with established benchmarks. In the case of HRECs, this refers particularly to the requirements of Section 5 of the National Statement.

A HREC may review itself using an audit process, an evaluation process, or a combination of both approaches. There can be significant cross-over in approaches.