BackgroundEthics review is the process of assessing the ethics of research involving humans. The Ethics Review Committee (ERC) is the key oversight mechanism designated to ensure ethics review. Whether or not this governance mechanism is still fit for purpose in the data-driven research context remains a debated issue among research ethics experts.Main textIn this article, we seek to address this issue in a twofold manner. First, we review the strengths and weaknesses of ERCs in ensuring ethical oversight. Second, we map (...) these strengths and weaknesses onto specific challenges raised by big data research. We distinguish two categories of potential weakness. The first category concerns persistent weaknesses, i.e., those which are not specific to big data research, but may be exacerbated by it. The second category concerns novel weaknesses, i.e., those which are created by and inherent to big data projects. Within this second category, we further distinguish between purview weaknesses related to the ERC’s scope (e.g., how big data projects may evade ERC review) and functional weaknesses, related to the ERC’s way of operating. Based on this analysis, we propose reforms aimed at improving the oversight capacity of ERCs in the era of big data science.ConclusionsWe believe the oversight mechanism could benefit from these reforms because they will help to overcome data-intensive research challenges and consequently benefit research at large. (shrink)
Population-level biomedical research offers new opportunities to improve population health, but also raises new challenges to traditional systems of research governance and ethical oversight. Partly in response to these challenges, various models of public involvement in research are being introduced. Yet, the ways in which public involvement should meet governance challenges are not well understood. We conducted a qualitative study with 36 experts and stakeholders using the World Café method to identify key governance challenges and explore how public involvement can (...) meet these challenges. This brief report discusses four cross-cutting themes from the study: the need to move beyond individual consent; issues in benefit and data sharing; the challenge of delineating and understanding publics; and the goal of clarifying justifications for public involvement. The report aims to provide a starting point for making sense of the relationship between public involvement and the governance of population-level biomedical research, showing connections, potential solutions and issues arising at their intersection. We suggest that, in population-level biomedical research, there is a pressing need for a shift away from conventional governance frameworks focused on the individual and towards a focus on collectives, as well as to foreground ethical issues around social justice and develop ways to address cultural diversity, value pluralism and competing stakeholder interests. There are many unresolved questions around how this shift could be realised, but these unresolved questions should form the basis for developing justificatory accounts and frameworks for suitable collective models of public involvement in population-level biomedical research governance. (shrink)
Rare Disease research has seen tremendous advancements over the last decades, with the development of new technologies, various global collaborative efforts and improved data sharing. To maximize the impact of and to further build on these developments, there is a need for model consent clauses for rare diseases research, in order to improve data interoperability, to meet the informational needs of participants, and to ensure proper ethical and legal use of data sources and participants’ overall protection. A global Task Force (...) was set up to develop model consent clauses specific to rare diseases research, that are comprehensive, harmonized, readily accessible, and internationally applicable, facilitating the recruitment and consent of rare disease research participants around the world. Existing consent forms and notices of consent were analyzed and classified under different consent themes, which were used as background to develop the model consent clauses. The IRDiRC-GA4GH MCC Task Force met in September 2018, to discuss and design model consent clauses. Based on analyzed consent forms, they listed generic core elements and designed the following rare disease research specific core elements; Rare Disease Research Introductory Clause, Familial Participation, Audio/Visual Imaging, Collecting, storing, sharing of rare disease data, Recontact for matching, Data Linkage, Return of Results to Family Members, Incapacity/Death, and Benefits. The model consent clauses presented in this article have been drafted to highlight consent elements that bear in mind the trends in rare disease research, while providing a tool to help foster harmonization and collaborative efforts. (shrink)
The increasing implementation of next-generation sequencing technologies in the clinical context and the expanding commercial offer of genetic tests directly-toconsumers has increased the availability of previously inaccessible genetic information. A particular concern in both situations is how the volume of novel information will affect the processing of genetic and genomic information from minors. For minors, it is argued that in the provision of genetic testing, their “right not to know” should be respected as much as possible. Testing a minor early (...) in life eliminates the possibility for the minor to make use of his or her “right not to know.” The article discusses the theoretical underpinnings of the right not know, analyzes reasons why various direct-to-consumer companies process samples from minors, and discusses the right not to know in relation to common complex disorders in a pediatric population. (shrink)
In the last few decades, great progress has been made in both genetic and genomic research. The development of the Human Genome Project has increased our knowledge of the genetic basis of diseases and has given a tremendous momentum to the development of new technologies that make widespread genetic testing possible and has increased the availability of previously inaccessible genetic information. Two examples of this exponential evolution are the increasing implementation of next-generation sequencing technologies in the clinical context and the (...) expanding commercial offer of genetic tests directly-to-consumers.Firstly, the rapid development of next generation sequencing technologies has substantially reduced both the cost and the time required to sequence an entire human genome. These technologies are increasingly being used in the clinical setting with the goal of diagnosing conditions of presumed genetic origin that cannot be explained by targeted sequencing approaches. (shrink)
In order to study the relationship between genes and diseases, the increasing availability and sharing of phenotypic and genotypic data have been promoted as an imperative within the scientific community. In parallel with data sharing practices by clinicians and researchers, recent initiatives have been observed in which individuals are sharing personal genomic data. The involvement of individuals in such initiatives is facilitated by the increased accessibility of personal genomic data, offered by private test providers along with availability of online networks. (...) Personal webpages and on-line data sharing platforms such as Consent to Research, Free the Data, and Genomes Unzipped are being utilized to host and share genotypes, electronic health records and family history uploaded by individuals. Although personal genomic data sharing initiatives vary in nature, the emphasis on the individuals’ control on their data in order to benefit research and ultimately health care has seen as a key theme across these initiatives. In line with the growing practice of personal genomic data sharing, this paper aims to shed light on the potential challenges surrounding these initiatives. As in the course of these initiatives individuals are solicited to individually balance the risks and benefits of sharing their genomic data, their awareness of the implications of personal genomic data sharing for themselves and their family members is a necessity. Furthermore, given the sensitivity of genomic data and the controversies around their complete de-identifiability, potential privacy risks and harms originating from unintended uses of data have to be taken into consideration. (shrink)
This article provides a critical review of new policies in China, the United States, and the European Union that characterize genomic data as a national strategic resource. Specifically, we review policies that regulate human genomic data for economic, national security, or other strategic purposes rather than ethical or individual rights purposes.