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Published: 24/02/2005, Volume II5, No. 5944 Page 22 23

Cheryll Adams, Sarah Cowley and Lois Goding, Community Practitioners' and Health Visitors' Association; Sue McDonald and Ann Matthew, Royal College of Midwives; Kate Gerrish, Martin Johnson and Ann McMahon, Royal College of Nursing

On behalf of the research advisory groups on the three largest professional organisations for midwives, health visitors and nursese, we are concerned about the implementation of new 'research governance procedures.

Although conceived with the best of intentions, these are becoming a serious handicap to research, from student projects to national studies.

Unfortunately some new procedures have been inappropriately applied. In many cases the measures adopted are out of proportion to the risks.

Since research governance procedures are sometimes managed by individuals with little or no research experience, the real aims of the strategy - a desire to improve the quality of research - have been lost in a plethora of paperwork, committee meetings and new procedures.

Together with mechanisms for securing funding and university/ local research ethics committee approval, researchers now have to face many more levels of scrutiny.

While many of these may become increasingly necessary, the way in which they are locally managed and interpreted can be inconsistent and prohibitive.

Research is done primarily to improve patient services and quality of care.

Research governance arrangements seem to be having the opposite effect. For example even those with honorary NHS teaching contracts have to seek new contracts.

Even where genuine research risks are low, students have to be given extensions to deal with several levels of external evaluation.

In order to avoid scrutiny there is common re-negotiation of projects under new labels such as audit or evaluation.

Researchers are getting very different decisions from each of the bodies responsible for approval.

Some studies are inappropriately rejected by reason of a design with which a panel may be unfamiliar.

Approval paperwork encourages researchers to undertake 'convenient' research rather than answer important research questions The research collaborative of the CPHVA, RCM and RCN recommends that the UK health departments consider:

An urgent, rigorous review of the implementation of research governance across the UK.

A clear interpretation of which types of activity should be considered under governance arrangements.

Further clarification and assistance for managers in the interpretation of governance arrangements.

A systematic inquiry into the genuine risks and benefits posed by contemporary research so that research governance policy can be developed accordingly.

Work should be done to assist research governance managers in the assessment and grading of risks.

A consideration of alternative ways in which research could be regulated.

A more detailed position paper is available at www. man. ac. uk/rcn/