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Introduction to Health Research Ethics

Explore key ethical issues around human subjects in biomedical research, and learn how to conduct the studies responsibly.

Introduction to Health Research Ethics

Learn everything biomedical investigators need to know about research ethics

However groundbreaking biomedical research is, it should never come at the price of subjects’ health, privacy, or other rights. This three-week course offers practical insights, to make sure that it never does.

Funded by Universiti Malaya Medical Centre’s Medical Research Ethics Committee, the course will help you ensure human subjects are protected as you conduct important research.

Unpack research ethics fundamentals

The course gives you an excellent foundation in research ethics, explaining the three basic principles of ethical research, and giving you the opportunity into both the pros and cons of using human subjects.

You’ll also learn about research design, protocols, data management, and reviews, which are all important in ensuring not only a study’s success, but also its ethics committee approval.

Get practical experience conducting ethical research

After developing your knowledge on responsible biomedical research, you’ll have the chance to practice your skills with case studies and realistic exercises.

Informed consent, participant selection, risk-benefit analysis, confidentiality, scientific rigour, and data integrity are all covered in the materials.

You’ll also explore how conflicts of interest and adverse events are handled. This knowledge will prepare you to conduct effective, ethical research in any situation.

Learn from biomedical research experts

Universiti Malaya is a top-ranked institution, and its Medical Centre is Malaysia’s oldest teaching hospital. At the same time, its rigorous Medical Research Ethics Committee oversees the research design and execution of many national and international projects. With both experience and expertise, the University is able to offer a course of the highest calibre.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 16 seconds Research ethics governs the standards of conducting scientific research. It is important for researchers to adhere to ethical principles in order to ensure the dignity, welfare and rights of research participants Research ethics has its origin in the World War II, during the Nuremberg’s Trial (also called the Doctor’s trial) where Nazi physicians were sentenced for performing inhumane medical experimentations on prisoners in concentration camps. Since then, research ethics particularly in the context of biomedical research has evolved rapidly. and this together with heightened society awareness about research, poses new ethical challenges and questions when it comes to conducting medical research. And that’s why it makes health research ethics even more important and interesting.

Skip to 1 minute and 8 seconds In this 3-week course, we will introduce you to the basic principles and key topics of health research ethics then bring you through a number of interesting case studies, activities and discussions to challenge you to apply what you have learnt. You will also be introduced to the roles of a research ethics committee and learn the practicalities of a research ethics review. This will be especially useful to students or new researchers who are preparing to make an ethics application. Whether you are a clinician, a researcher, or both, we hope that by the end of the course, you will feel more empowered to advocate for safe and ethical research in your field of practice. Come onboard and join us!


  • Week 1

    Introduction to Health Research Ethics

    • Welcome

      Before you get started, we would like to give you an overview of the course and introduce you to our team.

    • Research Ethics

      Health research ethics concerns the use of people as test subjects in health or medical research. It seeks to ensure the safety, welfare and rights of human research subjects.

    • Research Protocol

      Before you start a research project, it is essential that you plan it carefully and make arrangements to mitigate any potential ethical and scientific issues.

    • Wrapping up Week 1

      Test your knowledge on the topics that you have learnt in Week 1.

  • Week 2

    Recruiting Subjects and Managing Data

    • Recruiting and Getting Informed Consent

      Before you invite anyone to participate as a subject in your research study, it is very important to first obtain their consent.

    • Handling Research Data and Biological Samples

      Responsible handling of data pertains to two aspects: Confidentiality and Integrity

    • Wrapping up Week 2

      Review the topics that you have learnt in Week 2

  • Week 3

    Adverse Events, Conflict of Interests, Study Closure and Ethics Review

    • Managing Adverse Events

      Before you conduct research, you should perform a thorough risk assessment to ensure that adequate health and safety measures are in place. However, unforeseen events can and do happen.

    • Conflict of Interests

      Reflect on how conflict of interests can affect you and your research in this lesson.

    • Closing a Study

      What matters to research subjects at the end of a study?

    • Ethics Review

      Practical tips for when it’s time for you to make an ethics application.

    • Wrapping up Week 3

      Test your knowledge on topics covered in Week 3.

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and learn at your own pace. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

Learning on this course

You can take this self-guided course and learn at your own pace. On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Apply the three basic principles of research ethics.
  • Assess and manage the risks of research to human subjects.
  • Apply the principles of informed consent.
  • Explain the importance of responsible management of research data.
  • Explain the concept of conflict of interests in research.
  • Describe the responsibilities of the research ethics committee.

Who is the course for?

This course is designed for individuals conducting health and biomedical studies. All researchers will benefit, but those who are new and unfamiliar with research design and applying for ethics clearance will find it especially useful.

Who will you learn with?

Hi Everyone! I am a Professor of Family Medicine at the University of Malaya.

Hi, I am May. I am a medical doctor working under the Ministry of Health, Malaysia.

Hi, I'm Nisha. I'm a Senior Lecturer and the Programme Manager/Secretariat for the Master of Health Research Ethics in UM. I hold a Ph.D in research ethics.

Who developed the course?

Universiti Malaya

Universiti Malaya is the premier research university in Malaysia, committed to advancing knowledge and learning through quality research and education for the nation and for humanity.

  • Established

  • Location

    Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
  • World ranking

    Top 60Source: QS World University Rankings 2021

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