The establishment of two National Scientific Committees is part of a pilot project to provide expert advice to researchers and Human Research Ethics Committees (HRECs) on complex genetic studies and clinical trials involving medical devices.
It is expected that the National Scientific Committees will help to safeguard participant wellbeing and improve the start-up times for medical research. During the pilot, all HRECs will have access to expertise in areas of research where such expertise may have been traditionally been difficult to source.
The National Scientific Committees will provide a scientific opinion on research proposals as requested by HRECs or investigators (researchers or trial sponsors). It is important to note the committees will not provide ethics approval for human research and positive advice from a committee does not constitute an approval to commence a research project.
While NHMRC oversaw the development of the National Scientific Committees and the appointment of members following consideration of expertise and appropriateness, the day to day management of the committees will be undertaken by Bellberry Limited, a not-for-profit, private ethics review organisation which already hosts a number of HRECs.
Importantly, these Committees are a national resource that are and should be seen as independent of any particular institution.