Research policy

The WHO Ethics Review Committee (ERC)

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The WHO Research Ethics Review Committee (ERC), formerly known as SCRIHS, is a 26-member Committee established and appointed by the Director-General, to ensure the highest ethical standards in research supported by WHO. It is mandated to review all research projects that involve human participants, and are supported, either financially or technically by WHO.

While the majority - 16 members - are WHO staff, there are also 10 international external members. Members are invited.

Members bring with them a broad diversity of experience and knowledge ranging from expertise in malaria vaccine research to expertise in research on health promotion in developing countries. This diversity of expertise ensures that all research proposals ranging from basic sciences and clinical research to social sciences and epidemiological research are thoroughly and fairly reviewed for ethical research conduct. All members are provided with training in the ethical review of research proposals involving human subjects.

The ERC reviews and advises on:

  • research that is fully or partially funded by WHO
  • research that is managed by WHO
  • research in which WHO is either a partner or collaborator

The terms of reference of the Committee are defined by the WHO Manual and are operationalised through its Rules of Procedures.

The WHO ERC is guided in its work by the World Medical Association Declaration of Helsinki (1964) last updated in 2008 as well as the International Ethical Guidelines for Biomedical Research Involving Human Subjects (CIOMS 2002). According to these guidelines, all research involving human subjects should be carried out in accordance with the fundamental ethical principles of respect, beneficence and justice.