Strengthening research ethics and governance across Queensland

26 March 2024

In her words, Sara Hubbard ‘fell’ into research ethics and governance. What keeps her there is a strong belief that the health and medical research she supports is improving the overall wellbeing of all Queenslanders.

Sara is the Research Governance Officer at the Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Service and, in October 2023, became the third Chair of HTQ’s Human Research Ethics and Governance (HREG) Collaborative Group when Sonia Hancock handed over the role.

Sara said she has been an active and vocal contributor to the HREG Collaborative Group since 2022.

“It is a well-established and supportive group, and the members made my transition to Chair easy,” Sara said.

“My appointment to the role also speaks volumes about the Group’s truly collaborative nature – my organisation is not a HTQ partner, and I’m based in Townsville.

“It’s one example of how the Group has evolved since its establishment in 2016 to collaborate on best practices and streamline research ethics and governance processes in Queensland.”

Sara hopes to encourage more members from rural, regional and remote settings to join the HREG Collaborative Group.

“Working in a rural, regional or remote setting can be isolating – some Research Governance Officers are the single contact person at their organisation or part of a tiny team.

“The HREG Collaborative Group offers us a space to connect with like-minded professionals, share our challenges and experience, and workshop potential solutions.”

Sara brings more than 12 years in research ethics, governance, and policy roles to the role. Armed with a social science degree, she also researches workforce culture, research capacity and culture.

Sara’s career highlight was being part of establishing and leading a national community of practice (CoP) for Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC) coordinators. The CoP now has over 200 members and continues to expand.

“I love bringing people together through networks to create ‘circles of niceness’ that support growth and connectedness.

“I think the HTQ HREG Collaborative Group works so well because it started with a network focus – people willingly brought their expertise and local issues to share, and we could identify where these issues represented broader challenges.

“While our members work in various organisations, and each has a different sphere of influence, our values are aligned, which makes it easier for us to tackle the big stuff.

“We have made a difference towards research ethics and governance harmonisation in Queensland, with successful outcomes, such as an improved Research Passport Agreement, the annual National HREC Conference, resources and tools, and ongoing education, training and networking opportunities.

“In the coming years, I would like to see how we can influence greater support for researchers, ethics committees, governance officers, and research support staff in rural, regional or remote settings.

“This work may include contributing to workforce strategies like leave relief, backfill for fellowships and access to ethics members to support a quorum of regional HRECs.”

For any enquiries about HTQ’s Human Research Ethics and Governance Collaborative Group, please email the HTQ team.

For information about the Human Research Ethics Committee Coordinator community of practice, please email Sara.

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