27th May 2022
Government of the Cook Islands
Te Koutu Mana Tutara O Te Ipukarea – Office of the Prime Minister
Cook Islands has new Research Ethics Committee
Protecting those participating in research in the Cook Islands is the newly formed Cook Islands Research Ethics Committee (CIREC). Established under the updated Cook Islands Research Policy, the CIREC reviews all research requests submitted to ensure the highest possible ethical standards are met.
The CIREC works in partnership with the Cook Islands National Research Committee (CINRC), the body that approves all requests for research permits.
Cabinet endorsed the proposal by the Office of the Prime Minister to update the Cook Islands National Research Policy on 25 January this year, with the Cook Islands Research Ethics Committee formed in May.
All research undertaken in the Cook Islands must meet the highest research and ethical standards protecting those participating in the research. To ensure this happens, the newly formed Cook Islands Research Ethics Committee reviews all applications before granting ethics approval. The application is then passed on to the Cook Islands National Research Committee for final review and approval, unless an exemption applies.
The composition of the CIREC are members with key qualities inclusive of active researchers, familiarity in research ethics, experience in health research and local community knowledge.
In 2019, pre-COVID, the Cook Islands Policy and Planning Office received 37 requests to conduct research in the Cook Islands, in 2021 there were 14 permit applications.
“The primary role of Cook Islands research is to generate knowledge and understanding for and about Cook Islands peoples to improve the wellbeing, social, cultural and economic status of Cook Islands peoples,” said Ms Valentino Wichman, the Central Policy and Planning Office of the Office the Prime Minister, the secretariat responsible for Cook Islands research permit process.
“The source material for Cook Islands research is derived from our people, their world views, epistemology, social and cultural contexts, and real-life experiences. We must ensure that our Cook Islands people and experiences are protected and not exploited.”
The guiding principles for all Cook Islands research are underpinned by values which were captured through consultations and the Cook Islands National Sustainable Development Agenda 2020+.
‘Ākono‘anga Māori is the central component of the Cook Islands knowledge system. It encompasses the skills, experiences, and insights of people, which are applied to preserve or improve their lives. Cook Islanders continue to maintain aspects of their cultural heritage through churches; communal gatherings; reciprocal exchange of goods; ceremonial occasions; and transfer of stories and values to their children.
“Ethics plays a huge role in research; we are pleased to announce this new committee that is working to protect our Cook Islands people. While research permit requests dropped understandably since COVID-19 struck in early 2020, we are finding now that requests are growing steadily,” said Ms Wichman.
“Future permit requests will now need to undergo ethics approval unless exempted under the policy.”
The membership of the Cook Islands National Research Committee comprises of 10 members that represented the Office of the Prime Minister, Ministry of Marine Resources, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration, Ministry of Cultural Development, National Environment Service, Natural Heritage, University of the South Pacific, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Agriculture and Te Marae Ora Ministry of Health.