Academic Guidance in Medical Student Research: How Well Do Supervisors and Students Understand the Ethics of Human Research?
Research is increasingly recognised as a key component of medical curricula, offering a range of benefits including development of skills in evidence-based medicine. The literature indicates that experienced academic supervision or mentoring is important in any research activity and positively influences research output. The aim of this project was to investigate the human research ethics experiences and knowledge of three groups: medical students, and university academic staff and clinicians eligible to supervise medical student research projects; at two Australian universities. Training in research ethics was low amongst academic staff and clinicians eligible to supervise medical student research. Only two-thirds of academic staff (67.9 %) and students (65.7 %) and less than half of clinicians surveyed (47.1 %; p = 0.014) indicated that specific patient consent was required for a doctor to include patient medical records within a research publication. There was limited awareness of requirements for participant information and consent forms amongst all groups. In the case of clinical trials, fewer clinicians (88.4 %) and students (83.3 %) than academics (100 %) indicated there was a requirement to obtain consent (p = 0.009). Awareness of the ethics committee focus on respect was low across all groups. This project has identified significant gaps in human research ethics understanding among medical students, and university academic staff and clinicians. The incorporation of research within medical curricula provides the impetus for medical schools and their institutions to ensure that academic staff and clinicians who are eligible and qualified to supervise students’ research projects are appropriately trained in human research ethics.
KeywordsResearch ethics Medical student Medical school Curriculum Ethics committee
Compliance with Ethical Standards
The study was approved by two university ethics review committees. Participants were provided with participant information. Tacit consent was implied by completion of an anonymous survey. All data were collected anonymously.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.
- Australian Government. (2007a). Australian code for the responsible conduct of research. https://www.nhmrc.gov.au/guidelines-publications/r39. Accessed 8 Jul 2015.
- Australian Government. (2007b). National statement on ethical conduct in human research, 2007 (National Statement). https://www.nhmrc.gov.au/book/national-statement-ethical-conduct-human-research. Accessed 8 Jul 2015.
- Australian Government. (2015). Australian Health Ethics Committee. National Health and Medical Research Council. https://www.nhmrc.gov.au/about/nhmrc-committees/australian-health-ethics-committee-ahec Accessed 29 Oct 2015.
- Australian Medical Council Limited. (2012). AMC graduate outcomes. http://amc.org.au/index.php/ar/bme. Accessed 29 Oct 2015.
- Babl, F. E., & Sharwood, L. N. (2008). Research governance: current knowledge among clinical researchers. Medical Journal of Australia, 188(11), 649–652.Google Scholar
- Bierer, S. B., Prayson, R. A., & Dannfer, E. F. (2014). Association of research self-efficacy with medical student career interests, specialization, and scholarship: A case study. Advances in Health Sciences Education, 20(2), 339–354.Google Scholar
- Boyd, M., & Wesemann, J. (Eds.). (2009). Broadening participation in undergraduate research: Fostering excellence and enhancing the impact. Washington, DC: Council on Undergraduate Research.Google Scholar
- Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI). (2014). University of Miami. https://www.citiprogram.org/index.cfm?pageID=86. Accessed 29 Oct 2015.
- Halpain, M. C., Jeste, D. V., Trinidad, G. I., Wetherell, J. L., & Lebowitz, B. D. (2005). Intensive short-term research training for undergraduate, graduate, and medical students: early experience with a new national-level approach in geriatric mental health. Academic Psychiatry, 29(1), 58–65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Health Workforce Australia. (2012). Australia’s Heath Workforce Series—doctors in focus. Adelaide: Health Workforce Australia.Google Scholar
- Lawson, P. J., Smith, S., Mason, M. J., Zyzanski, S. J., Stange, K. C., Werner, J. J., & Flocke, S. A. (2014). Creating a culture of inquiry in family medicine. Family Medicine, 46(7), 515–521.Google Scholar
- Medical Board of Australia. (2014). Good medical practice: A code of conduct for doctors in Australia. http://www.medicalboard.gov.au/Codes-Guidelines-Policies/Code-of-conduct.aspx. Accessed 6 Jul 2015.
- Mullan, J. R., Weston, K. M., Rich, W. C., & McLennan, P. L. (2014). Investigating the impact of a research-based integrated curriculum on self-perceived research capabilities of medical students in rural and regional placements: a pre- and post-test analysis of three student cohorts. BMC Medical Education, 14, 161.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Ramalingam, S., Bhuvaneswari, S., & Sankaran, R. (2014). Ethics workshops—are they effective in improving the competencies of faculty and postgraduates? Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research, 8(7), XC01–XC03.Google Scholar
- Zawati, M., Cohen, E., Parry, D., Avard, D., & Syncox, D. (2015). Ethics education for clinician-researchers in genetics: The combined approach. Applied & Translational Genomics, 4, 16–20.Google Scholar
- World Medical Association Inc. (2015). WMA Declaration of Helsinki—ethical principles for medical research involving human subjects. http://www.wma.net/en/30publications/10policies/b3/. Accessed 8 Jul 2015.