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I am working for a non-government organization providing elderly rehabilitation services. We offered various rehabilitation arrangement to our clients. Our clients are free to choose rehabilitation arrangement according to their needs.

Recently, we would like to analyze effectiveness of various rehabilitation arrangements on physical functions of elderly clients for service improvement. I would like to know: - If we analyze data with consent obtained from participant, should we need to have ethics approval? - If we are going to share findings (e.g. conference or journals), do we still need to have ethics approval?

Unlike US and Australia, we do not have local centralized research ethics committee on ethics approval. As we are small NGO, we cannot afford expensive commercial IRB services. Also, no academic institution has interest to have collaboration with us. Is there any ways for small NGO to obtain ethics approval? Thanks.

1 Answer 1

Any reputable scientific publication venue will require some sort of IRB certification of almost all research involving human subjects. There are certain circumstances where the data is anonymous or incidental enough to not need approval (see for example these US HHS decision charts). Your research, however, sounds like it will definitely need IRB review.

You've already hit on the main avenues for getting review---partnership with university or contracting with a commercial IRB. I would suggest a few others to consider:

  • Your country may have a governmental IRB or equivalent that you can work with.
  • There may be a larger NGO that you can partner with, which would be able to support IRB review internally or externally.
  • Some commercial IRBs might have a "reduced price" option for developing countries.

IRBs for research in developing countries are indeed a challenging issue: this document has a nice summary of some of the challenges and approaches.