Move to streamline research process in Samoa

The chair of a research subcommittee would like to see researchers have a more streamlined process towards approval.

Peseta Dr. Desmond Lee Hang, Deputy Vice Chancellor of the National University of Samoa, said the ethics approval process for international researchers is too difficult and often expensive.  

He said this can be a barrier to quality research being undertaken in Samoa.

“I feel sorry for any international researcher who applies,” he said. 

Currently an international researcher must apply for ethics approval from any government ministry their research may relate to, including the Ministry of the Prime Minster and Cabinet. Each ministry has their own requirements for ethics approval as well as their own fees. The chief executive officers of ministries  may also demand more ethics requirements or withdraw their approval at any time.

Instead, Peseta is advocating for a single ethics approval council to be founded, with representatives from each ministry.

“We are looking at creating a one stop shop for ethics approval,” he said.

A national research council would streamline the approvals process and cut out repeated fees and long waiting times for researchers. Peseta said waiting for ethics approval can often result in research being delayed.

“I have had colleagues become very frustrated on visits here where they come with a short amount to time to collect data.”

“The ethics approval takes so long that by the time they have to leave, they still have no approval,” he said. 

Removing these technical barriers to research will encourage quality researchers to come to Samoa and contribute to a developing culture of evidence-based study.

The Samoa Education Research Strategy and Action Plan, launched on Friday, is designed to build a research base upon which to develop education policy. The action plan states that “high quality research strengthens the evidence base upon which sound policy making rests”. The report describes how currently research in the education sector has been donor driven and ad hoc and not always used in policy making later.

“There is a need for specified policy-related data to be coordinated or collected by M.E.S.C., S.Q.A. and N.U.S., and to be published so that data is available when needed to inform sector policies,” the report states.

Peseta says the collaboration of the three implementing agencies, M.E.S.C., S.Q.A. and N.U.S. will be a more efficient use of sector resources.

“We want to move away from working in silos,” he added. 

When it comes to receiving research proposals under the new research strategy, Peseta said the combined sector committee will be important to the process.

“This is an opportunity to ensure all proposals are supported by all three agencies and are aligned with the needs of the sector.”

He said this will ensure proposals receiving government funding will conduct research the education sector needs done.

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