National Research Ethics Committees (NRECs) are responsible for reviewing research proposals in prescribed areas of health research, with the aim of providing single national ethics opinions that are respected nationally. They play a key role in protecting the safety, dignity and well-being of health research participants.
NRECs are appointed by the Minister for Health and report to the Minister. They meet at regular intervals to review and approve applications from researchers in the areas under their remit. The purpose, structure, and scope of the NRECs are defined by their Terms of Reference. Decisions made by NRECs on applications are entirely independent.
It is important that national decisions on the ethics underpinning Irish health research are informed by the diversity of skills, experience, interests and backgrounds reflective of Irish society. This is why NREC Members are appointed from diverse backgrounds, representing a wide range of professional and life experiences. Patient and public involvement (PPI) is integral to the NREC system: of the maximum 21 Members selected for each NREC, one quarter appointed are lay, including PPI representatives and members of the general public, and all Members’ opinions are given equal weight in the decision-making process.
Working alongside local research ethics committees and supported by the National Office team, the NRECs will work in a mixed-model system to support research ethics across the spectrum of health research in Ireland.
Following the appointment of the first NREC for COVID-19 in 2020, three further NRECs were appointed in 2021: two for clinical trials of medicinal products for human use (NREC-CT), and one for clinical investigations of medical devices (NREC-MD). In 2022, the remit od NREC-MD expanded further and now this committee also reviews the ethical applications for performance studies of in vitro diagnostic medical devices.
For all information related to a Committee’s composition, meetings, minutes and decisions, click on the name of the NREC below: