PCHRD-funded study wins Medard Hilhorst prize at 2020 World Congress of Bioethics

The 2020 World Congress of Bioethics confers the Medard Hilhorst for Oceania region  prize to the poster, “When Reviewers are Reviewed: obstacles and ethical dilemmas when ethics reviewers themselves are the subjects of study,” based on  a study funded by the Department of Science and Technology - Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (DOST-PCHRD).

From the project “Gender Competence in Ethics Review in the Philippines” led by Professor Fatima Alvarez Castillo, current president of the Social Inquiry and Building Capacities in Research, Inc. (SIBCRI), the winning poster highlights ethical dilemmas encountered in the aforementioned study. The poster was authored by Daphne Joyce Maza and Joel Estacio who were assistant investigators of the project.

In the study, gender competence is defined as the “knowledge and ability to recognize risks, harm, vulnerabilities, discrimination, and other forms of unfairness for research participants that ensue from gender.” To examine gender competence in Philippine ethics review, the researchers interviewed ethics reviewers and gender experts.

We realize that gender issues are often unrecognized or unseen even among those who are highly educated,” Prof. Castillo said about the team’s motivation in pursuing the project. This was affirmed by the results of the study which found that there is a need for considerable improvements in gender competence among  ethics reviewers. Aside from misconceptions about gender, there were gaps in addressing gender issues in ethics review.

One recommendation of the research team is for the Philippine Health Research Ethics Board (PHREB) to create policies that could strengthen the gender competence of research ethics committees. The PHREB may identify gender competence as a mainstream competence among RECs, incorporating it in the accreditation processes of RECS as well as in capacity building activities and programs.

As the national coordinating agency for health research efforts in the country, we recognize ethics review as an equally important part of the research process,” said DOST-PCHRD Executive Director Jaime Montoya. “We must ensure that our health research community gears towards the advancement of healthcare without compromising the rights and welfare of research participants regardless of gender,” added Dr. Montoya.

From the team’s experience in joining the 2020 World Congress of Bioethics, Prof. Castillo encourages the country’s bioethics community to take an active role in fostering a robust ethical research culture in the country by continuing to study and address existing issues in ethics review. Having faced challenges as well in conducting their study, Prof. Castillo advises researchers to persevere and collaborate with their respective ethics committees to overcome obstacles.

The submission “Gender Competence in Ethics Review in the Philippines” was also shortlisted for the Mark Ehrenreich Prize in Healthcare Ethics for the Oceania region, a paper presentation category in the 2020 World Congress of Bioethics. The co-investigators of the study are Nimfa Bracamonte, Ernesto Gregorio Jr and Erlinda Palaganas.