The African Bioethics Consortium* has released a toolkit to aid in evaluating the operational needs of Research Ethics Committees (RECs). The tool, called the Research Ethics Committee Assessment Toolkit, or RECAT, was created to facilitate efficient, high quality ethics review of research protocols in any setting.

The RECAT can be used by RECs—also known as Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)—to identify:

  1. Baseline operational conditions of a REC
  2. Areas for the development of targeted interventions to improve REC functioning 
  3. Change in REC quality and efficiency over time across multiple domains

The evaluation process combines data gathered through various methods, including interviews, focus groups, document review, and direct observation. This mixed methods approach allows the assessment to capture both written policies and procedures of the REC as well as actual day-to-day practices. It incorporates perspectives from multiple key stakeholders including: institutional leadership, REC chairpersons, REC administrators, REC members, and researchers who submit applications to the REC. Data collection checklists and templates, section-by-section instructions, and sample reports are included in the toolkit.

The RECAT also provides a detailed reporting template, and sample report, to help evaluators organize the collected information around core areas and identify the resources needed to address committee needs.  

The toolkit is published open-access and can be used free of charge for non-commercial purposes. The developers would appreciate feedback on users’ experiences with the RECAT in order to make improvements.  Feedback can be sent via email to jali@jhu.edu.

*The African Bioethics Consortium’s members include the Johns Hopkins University-Fogarty African Bioethics Training Program, the University of Zambia School of Medicine, the University of Botswana Office of Research & Development, and the Makerere University College of Health Sciences.