Vardit Ravitsky and Judy Illes provide a summary overview of progress being made at CIHR with respect to its ethics mandate.
In 2014, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) revamped its Standing Committee on Ethics and tasked it with providing high-level strategic advice on the ethical, legal, and sociocultural dimensions of health research. Per the Committee’s Terms of Reference, there are 14 voting members. Among them are three Canadian ethics experts and two senior international ethics experts, two CIHR Scientific Directors, two members of the public, and various other stakeholders (including a member from industry and a health journal editor). At the present time, not all of these positions are filled.
Taking into consideration the history of ethics at CIHR and the future needs of the health research community, the Standing Committee on Ethics immediately embarked on the creation of an Ethics Action Plan to set clear, rigorous and impactful objectives.
The Plan was endorsed by CIHR’s Governing Council and then finalized and approved by the Standing Committee on Ethics in January 2015. The Plan sets out to strengthen Canada’s leadership in ethics and to systematically embed consideration of ethical issues into CIHR’s operations. It emphasizes the importance of nurturing and monitoring ethics research capacity, capturing and assessing the impact of ethics activities within CIHR-funded research, and ensuring that ethics considerations inform CIHR decisions regarding priority-setting, policies, partnerships, and peer review.
To achieve these goals, the Standing Committee on Ethics recognized the need for baseline data. To this end, with CIHR’s support, the Committee developed a Logic Model to guide the process of selecting, defining and refining performance indicators.