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Creating a ‘Father Confessor’: the origins of research ethics committees in UK military medical research, 1950–1970. Part I, context and causes
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    Advice on how to navigate the MODREC process for junior researchers in the Defence Medical Services
    • Jacob H Matthews, GDMO 3 Medical Regiment
    • Other Contributors:
      • Hannah Taylor, Public Health Registrar
      • David A Ross, Defence Consultant Adviser Public Health

    Dear Sir,

    The paper by Dr Schmidt details the history of the first independent Research Ethics Committee (REC) at Porton Down in the 1960’s. This REC was created to address ethical and legal concerns about research on human subjects. Since the 1960’s the emphasis has rightly shifted from “the doctor/scientist is always right” to “the participants must be protected from any unnecessary harms”. This has led to an expansion of the ethics review process and level of scrutiny, which has left many junior researchers feeling frustrated when their plans are criticised or delayed.

    This letter will list some advice for junior researchers in the Defence Medical Services on how to navigate the process and improve the quality of their research and the chance of a successful ethical approval for research involving human participants:
    1. First, use the NHS Health Research Authority tool to confirm that your study design is research and that it requires ethical approval.
    2. Read JSP 536 Pt 1 (48 pages) and 2 (64 pages).
    3. Be familiar with the main tenets of medical ethics - respect for autonomy, beneficence, non-maleficence, justice and equipoise.
    4. Involve patients and other stakeholders in the design of the study.
    5. Do not underestimate the time required, it may take six to 12 months.
    6. Be resilient and ensure you have support. It will be stressful.
    7. The REC process is a combination of prestigious journal submission and viv...

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    Conflict of Interest:
    None declared.