Unpacking the beliefs and attitudes of Australian HREC members: An examination of influences on reviewer decision-making

Boris Handal, Kevin Watson, Marc Fellman, Marguerite Maher, Miya White

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


This paper examines beliefs and attitudes in the context of how they influence the decisions of university Human Research Ethics Committees (HRECs) as a preface to undertaking an empirical study in this area. It also aims at establishing a conceptual framework to guide the design of a questionnaire targeting beliefs about research ethics and the implications of these beliefs on review practices of HREC members throughout Australia. Using content analysis of the extant body of the literature the paper examines the relationship between the concepts of beliefs and knowledge, beliefs and attitudes, and among beliefs, attitudes and behaviour in the context of research ethics. The discussion suggests that ethics approval practices can, at times, be influenced more by personal beliefs than by contemporary review standards. It is also suggested that personal beliefs can be transmitted through the review process and that HRECs can serve to influence the transfer of values from reviewers to researchers. The framework that this paper presents has the potential to appraise an array of perspectives which in turn would guide the design of professional development programs. In addition, an improved, more nuanced understanding of how HREC members make ethical decisions will positively impact and inform best practice in the review of ethical applications for research projects. The paper presents a novel theoretical framework underpinning research ethics reviewer beliefs and attitudes within a contemporary context.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)139-152
Number of pages14
JournalResearch in Ethical Issues in Organizations
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Attitudes
  • Beliefs
  • Ethics
  • Research
  • Review practices


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