We were in one place, and the ethics committee in another: Experiences of going through the research ethics application process
Nel, Pieter W.
This study aimed to explore postgraduate students’ lived experiences of managing research ethics committee processes. Whilst there is a wide range of research that explores ethics principles/guidance and committee perspectives upon research ethics processes, there is a lack of research into applicant experiences of these processes. Thus, interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) was utilised to explore the lived experiences and personal meaning-making of seven doctoral-level students participating in clinical psychology training. Three main themes emerged from participants’ accounts: (1) The emotional intensity and personal impact of the ethics process; (2) responses to and ways of managing the ethics process and (3) challenges within the ethics process. The results of this study highlight the importance of recognising the impact of the relationships between research students, courses and research ethics committees upon applicants’ progress through the research ethics process. In particular, an unhelpful ‘them and us’ dynamic may be maintained by misunderstandings about each other’s roles, uncertainty and stereotyping, amongst other factors. Potential ways to change this dynamic and to improve the research ethics process are explored.