Skip to main content
Article thumbnail
Location of Repository

Consistency in research ethics committee decision-making: a controlled comparison

By Emma L. Angell, Alex J. Sutton, Kate C. Windridge and Mary Dixon-Woods


This is the author's final draft of the article which was published in the Journal of Medical Ethics. The final, as published, version is available on the publisher's website; \ud has been longstanding interest in the consistency of decisions made by research ethics committees (RECs) in the UK, but most of the evidence has come from single studies\ud submitted to multiple committees. A systematic comparison was carried out of the decisions made on 18 purposively selected applications, each of which was reviewed\ud independently by three different RECs in a single strategic health authority. Decisions on 11 applications were consistent, but disparities were found among RECs on\ud decisions on seven applications. An analysis of the agreement between decisions of RECs yielded an overall measure of agreement of k = 0.286 (95% confidence interval 20.06 to 0.73), indicating a level of agreement\ud that, although probably better than chance, may be described as ‘‘slight’’. The small sample size limits the robustness of these findings. Further research on reasons for inconsistencies in decision making between RECs, and on the importance of such inconsistencies for a range of arguments, is needed.Peer-reviewedPost-prin

Publisher: BMJ Publishing Group
Year: 2006
DOI identifier: 10.1136/jme.2005.014159
OAI identifier:

Suggested articles


  1. (1995). Are ethics committees reliable?
  2. (2005). Central Office for Research Ethics Committees. Governance Arrangements for Research Ethics Committees (GAfREC). doi
  3. (2004). Central Office for Research Ethics Committees. Standard Operating Procedures for Research Ethics Committees. doi
  4. (2005). Health. Research Governance for Health and Social Care. 2nd edition. London: Department of Health,
  5. Research ethics committees: Differences and moral judgement. doi
  6. (2000). Responses of local research ethics committees to a study with approval from a multicentre research ethics committee. BMJ doi
  7. The ethics and governance of medical research: what does regulation have to do with morality? New Rev Bioethics. doi
  8. The ethics of research ethics committees. doi
  9. (2001). The European Parliament and the Council of the European Union. Directive 2001/20/EC of the European parliament and of the council of 4 doi
  10. (2003). Variation in obtaining local ethical approval for participation in a multi-centre study. QJ Med

To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.