Australian Defence Human Research Ethics Committee
About the Australian Defence Human Research Ethics Committee (ADHREC)
Increasing worldwide concern regarding the safety and applicability of research involving humans led to the Declaration of Helsinki in 1964 and, in Australia, the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Medical Research Ethics Committee in 1982. The NHMRC Act 1992 established that the NHMRC was to issue guidelines for the conduct of medical research involving humans.
Defence complies withe NHMRC Act 1992, and with the guidelines on human research published by the NHMRC. The most recent of these in the 2007 document 'National Statement of Ethical Conduct in Human Research'. The guidelines mandate that all institutions conducting human research have a properly constituted ethics committee.
The Australian Defence Human Research Ethics Committee (ADHREC) was established in 1989. As the Human Research Ethics Committee for Defence, ADHREC is committed to the creation and maintenance of an environment in which research on humans undertaken on Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel, by ADF personnel, or on Defence property, is conducted both professionally and ethically.
ADHRECs mission is to promote and encourage health research in the military context. Clearly, such research needs to be of the highest ethical standard, as the best research has as its essential ingredient, best ethical practice.
The ethical principles of autonomy, beneficence, non-malevolence and justice are used to ensure the protection of the welfare and rights of research participants. Research on humans which involves Defence service personnel is, in many ways, unique. As a research population, the ADF is especially attractive, enjoying both a high level of physical fitness and readily available expert medical care, but it is also a captive population, whose working lives are regimented in a way that civilian personnel rarely experience. ADF personnel are subject to order in a way that civilian personnel are not, and for them, therefore, the issue of voluntary consent is a particularly important and sensitive one. ADHREC exists to safeguard the rights of these men and women, the same rights that the civilian population expects to enjoy.
The Committee generally meets eight times a year and considers all proposed biomedical research projects on human volunteers that involve ADF personnel or that will be carried out in Defence establishments. While ADHREC can give ethical clearance for a project to proceed, it cannot authorize the use of particular Defence personnel in any particular project. Commanders clearances are required for the release of their personnel to take part in any research project.
ADHREC is currently reviewing the content of the two instructions dealing with its role and responsibilities. A number of initiatives have been undertaken as ADHREC's role has evolved over the years and some additional guidance has been provided to anyone wishing to submit a research protocol for ADHREC consideration.
ADHREC Committee Members and Executive
4 November, 2013