Dr. Salome Vios and Dr. Sonia Bongala (2nd and 3rd from left, respectively), Chairs of PHREB’s Committee on Standards and Accreditation, were given tokens and certificates of appreciation for serving as resource persons for the Roundtable Discussion on Research Ethics held on 24 January 2018. Dr. Melinda Lumanta, UPOU Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs (leftmost), Dr. Melinda Bandalaria, UPOU Chancellor; and Dr. Ricardo Bagarinao, Dean of the UPOU Faculty of Education presented the certificates.

The University of the Philippines Open University (UPOU) Office of the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs (OVCAA) conducted the “Roundtable Discussion on Research Ethics” on 24 January at the Audiovisual Room, UPOU Headquarters. Resource speakers were Dr. Salome Vios and Dr. Sonia Bongala of the Philippine Health Research Ethics Board (PHREB). They discussed the best practices in research ethics, PHREB’s accreditation process, and gave some recommendations to guide the institutionalization of research ethics at UPOU.

Guided by the strategic plans of both the UP System and the UPOU to cement UP’s role as a public research university, the OVCAA recognizes the need for ethical research practices in Open and Distance e-Learning (ODeL). To fill this gap, the OVCAA invited Dr. Vios and Dr. Bongala to talk about PHREB’s ethical review guidelines and accreditation.

Dr. Vios and Dr. Bongala, Chairs of PHREB’s Committee on Standards and Accreditation, shared their extensive knowledge in health science research ethics and the efforts to contextualize research ethics in various disciplines. A walk-through of PHREB’s accreditation process was done to inform the UPOU community regarding the prerequisites to accomplish for the University to establish its Institutional Review Board (IRB). Apart from these, Dr. Vios and Dr. Bongala emphasized the importance of research ethics and the balance that should be observed between innovation and regulation.

Based on the discussions with the experts, the faculty and staff came with various recommendations. Among these were the review, revision, and dissemination of policies and documents that will reflect ethical guidelines to be followed to ensure the integrity of the research culture in the University. These recommendations were seconded by Dr. Vios who pointed out that research ethics is a key indicator of a sound and rigorous research.

The practice of ethics review is not new to the UPOU. Students of the Master of Arts in Nursing and the Master of International Health of the Faculty of Management and Development Studies (FMDS) are required to subject their thesis proposals to ethics review by various ethics review boards inside and outside of the Philippines. Recognizing the importance of ethics review not just in the health sciences, the OVCAA, with the help of the FMDS, has already started the groundwork for the creation of the UPOU’s IRB. The Roundtable Discussion on Research Ethics was the first of a series of activities in line with this initiative. (Louise S. Villanueva and Mary Aizel C. Dolom, OVCAA)