Connecting research and care: A provincial health authority research ethics board service

19 June 2024

Michael Smith Health Research BC (Health Research BC) will be advancing the design of a provincial health authority research ethics board service. This initiative is another significant step in streamlining research processes, advancing sustainable economic development in the province, and solidifying BC’s reputation as a leader in high quality and accountable research.

“This is such an important initiative for our province,” says Dr. Bev Holmes, President & CEO, Health Research BC. “Effective and efficient research processes are imperative to ensuring health research meets the highest standards and improves the health of people in BC.”

As a provincial agency, we are committed to enabling change towards a stronger research system. Both Research Ethics BC and Clinical Trials BC, parts of Health Research BC, sit at the intersection of health authorities, academia, patient partners, research institutes, and the life sciences and biomanufacturing sector; all are critical to bring to the table to advance this important work.

The milestones that brought us here

This initiative results from steps and successes that have taken place in British Columbia. 

  • The COVID-19 Clinical Research Coordination Initiative published the Research is Care briefing document in September 2021. The document recognized the strong collaboration and hard-won successes across the health sector brought on by the pandemic, but also called out the long-standing obstacles to producing the best health outcomes. 
  • Research Ethics BC and the research ethics community have since 2007 worked to streamline research approval processes. The province-wide harmonized ethics review system in place is a testament to the community’s vision and strong change leadership.  
  • The Research Approvals Process Project (RAPP), a joint Ministry of Health and health authority initiative, commenced in 2023.  
  • Findings from the rapid assessment of BC’s health research system led by Health Research BC, recognized RAPP as an important step towards enacting further system change.  
  • In February 2024, following the Leadership Council’s request to the RAPP team, the Ministry of Health invited Health Research BC to explore the establishment of a provincial health authority research ethics board service.

Research ethics, research approvals and the importance of research as care are very connected with the work occurring in the clinical trials community. Back in 2022, Clinical Trials BC helped lead the community in defining a shared vision where clinical trials investments are maximized for the benefit of all British Columbians. Building on this, a round table hosted by Clinical Trials BC and attended by provincial leaders and policymakers in November 2023, agreed on three main priorities: create agile services to support clinical trials; fund and support sustainable clinical trial infrastructure; and enable streamlined and timely research ethics review. These priorities symbiotically advance the province’s Life Sciences and Biomanufacturing strategy and will help expand clinical trials capacity by enabling infrastructure, accelerating skills training and streamlining the research approvals process.

The milestones to come 

Health Research BC is well-positioned to advance the development of a provincial health authority research ethics board service; one that addresses contemporary needs and anticipates future challenges. To promote success, we have engaged with Accenture, an external consulting firm with experience in this work. The Accenture team is led by Patrick Saunders-Hastings, an epidemiologist with notable experience in leading research transformation, clinical research, process optimization and change leadership. We recognize the importance of our role in bringing shared learnings and the right voices to the table from the research community in catalyzing change for a stronger health research system. 

For further information or to engage with us on this initiative, please contact