Health research delivers better health, better patient care and supports our economy. Any research that takes place in Ireland does so under strict regulations to ensure scientific standards are met and to protect the welfare of health research participants. Research ethics committees (RECs) are essential to this process: they review research proposals and give an independent opinion on whether the research is ethical, with the aim of protecting the safety, dignity and well-being of research participants.

The National Office for Research Ethics Committees is responsible for establishing national RECs (NRECs) in specific areas of health research as requested by the Minister of Health. These NRECs are tasked with delivering ‘single national ethics opinions’ which will help streamline the system of research ethics in Ireland – strengthening the national research infrastructure to protect patients and the public, while creating a more conducive environment for clinical trials and other regulated health research areas.

Working in partnership with local RECs and other regulators of health research, the National Office is developing a roadmap for the transition to this national system of research ethics review. The first NREC was established in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, with NREC-CTs and NREC-MD being launched in 2021, in the areas of clinical trials of medicinal products and clinical investigations of medical devices respectively. In 2022, the remit of NREC-MD expanded further and now the committee also reviews ethical applications for performance studies of in vitro diagnostic medical devices.

Read more on the National Office here.

Find out more about the work of the NRECs in the Committees section of our website.

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