Research Ethics under the spotlight

The Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) and the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) hosted a public lecture under the title “Explore the Frontiers of Safeguarding Research Participants with the Application of Research Ethics Principles from the Latest CIOMS Guidelines” by Prof Hans van Delden in Johannesburg on 20 March 2024. The proceedings were opened by the esteemed heads of the organisations and research divisions, Prof Himla Soodyall and Prof Ames Dhai.

Van Delden (CIOMS and Utrecht University), renowned for his leadership in the Council for International Organizations of Medical Sciences (CIOMS), delivered a keynote presentation on the latest CIOMS guidelines for research ethics. His insights on Research Ethics Committee Functioning and Research Participant Safeguards provided a comprehensive overview of best practices in the field.

Following Prof van Delden’s presentation, enlightening sessions with panels of esteemed speakers representing various institutions delved deeper into various aspects of the safeguarding of research participants with the application of research ethics,  from their different perspectives.

Prof Michele Ramsay (Wits), Mrs Matty van Niekerk (Wits), and Mrs Susan Veldsman (ASSAf) shed light on the Unified Interpretation of POPIA, emphasizing the importance of protecting personal information in research endeavors. Prof Shenuka Singh (NHREC) explored the intricacies of Research Ethics Committee Functioning, offering a critical review of existing guidelines.

Dr Retha Visagie (UNISA and SARIMA) emphasised the role of research management in ensuring participant safety, while Prof Lesley Burgess (SAHPRA and Stellenbosch University) discussed the latest developments in regulatory standards for research participant safeguards. Dr Seeiso Koali (SAMRC) highlighted the fundamental element of trust in research, highlighting its significance in fostering ethical practices.

Furthermore, the event addressed crucial topics such as safeguarding indigenous knowledge, industry perspectives on clinical trial participant consent, and the role of research integrity in participant protection. Speakers like Dr Fikile Mnisi (REASA / Khaca (Pty) Ltd), Mr Nathaniel Ramuthaga (Roche), and Mr Francis Kombe (ARIN) provided valuable insights into these diverse areas, enriching the dialogue with their expertise.

Additionally, Prof Kevin Behrens (Wits Steve Biko Centre for Bioethics) shared profound insights into the multifaceted nature of ethics, emphasising that ethical conduct encompasses more than mere compliance with regulations. Dr Diana De Sousa (SACAP) navigated the technological frontier in health research, addressing the challenges and opportunities for enhancing engagement while ensuring ethical standards are upheld.

A panel discussion facilitated by Prof Ames Dhai and Prof Paul Ruff (Wits and SAHPRA), offered a platform for collaborative dialogue among representatives from various organisations and institutions. The insightful exchanges further highlighted the importance of aligning research ethics principles across initiatives, as highlighted in the CIOMS guidelines.

The event concluded with a formal welcome from Prof Lynn Morris (Wits) and a reflection and closure by Prof Paul Ruff, leaving attendees inspired and equipped with valuable insights to navigate the complex landscape of research ethics.

The Public Lecture and engagement served as a critical moment for advancing the dialogue on safeguarding research participants, drawing upon the latest CIOMS guidelines and insights from esteemed experts in the field. As the global research community continues to evolve, events like these play a crucial role in promoting ethical conduct and ensuring the welfare of all research participants.

To view the full event