The level of scrutiny that research proposals undergo might surprise many, but has been endorsed by the Ministry of Health to be necessary. We hope that prospective investigators understand the necessity and will be able to accommodate them in their planning and timeline. The clearance process fro health – related research in Fiji essentially two steps:
- Clearance from the National Health Research Committee (NHRC)
This is accomplished by submitting a full written proposal with a cover letter from the Principle Investigator. The committee then assigns a reviewer for the proposal who then submit their opinion of the proposal orally and/or in writing to the full committee. In addition to the relevant technical and/or ethical issues, the committee is also interested in the appropriateness, applicability and priority of the research relative to the Fiji context. The NHRC meets every month. The endorsement/ clearance then pave the way for the next step – ethical clearance.
- Approval from the Fiji National Research Ethics Review Committee (FNRERC)
The FNRERC has its own application form which must be submitted along with all other relevant documents (e.g. data collection instrument – questionnaires, interview schedules, informed consent materials, participant information sheet, CV and external ethical clearance for external investigators). The FNRERC Chair then assigns the proposal to a primary reviewer who reports their opinion at the next full meeting of the committee. The Committee conducts both a full technical and ethical review of all proposals submitted to it. It is common practice for the committee to invite the investigator to make a brief presentation to the committee in- person highlighting any pertinent ethical issues. After private deliberation by the committee, the investigator will be called back into the meeting to answer any questions that arise from the deliberation. The Committee may/ may not then require certain amendments to the protocol or informed consent process before granting approval for the decision by the Chair on whether or not this appropriate given the content and scope of the proposed study. Under a very unusual circumstance, a special meeting of the full FNRERC might be called to deal with urgent proposals. As a matter of protocols, the FNRERC will usually only consider applications previously endorsed by the NHRC. The FNRERC meets every two months after NHRC.