ISSUE ADDRESSED: Most academic journals that publish studies involving human participants require evidence that the research has been approved by a human research ethics committee (HREC). Yet journals continue to receive submissions from authors who have failed to obtain such approval. In this paper, we provide an ethical justification of why journals should not, in general, publish articles describing research that has no ethics approval, with particular attention to the health promotion context.
METHODS: Using theoretical bioethical reasoning and drawing on a case study, we first rebut some potential criticisms of the need for research ethics approval. We then outline four positive claims to justify a presumption that research should, in most instances, be published only if it has been undertaken with HREC approval.
RESULTS: We present four justifications for requiring ethics approval before publication: (1) HREC approval adds legitimacy to the research; (2) the process of obtaining HREC approval can improve the quality of an intervention being investigated; (3) obtaining HREC approval can help mitigate harm; and (4) obtaining HREC approval demonstrates respect for persons.
CONCLUSION: This paper provides a systematic and comprehensive assessment of why research ethics approval should generally be obtained before publishing in the health promotion context. So what? Journals such as the Health Promotion Journal of Australia have recently begun to require research ethics approval for publishing research. Health promotion researchers will be interested in learning the ethical justification for this change.
- publication ethics