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Abstract

An increasing number of physiotherapists are undertaking research activities, but the level of overall awareness and understanding of ethical research practices is unknown. The aim of this study was to describe physiotherapist's knowledge of good research practices. Physiotherapists who presented abstracts at an Australian Physiotherapy Association conference in 2003/2004 were surveyed (n = 184, response rate = 55%). Excluding literature reviews, the majority of abstracts involved humans (95%), with 89% of these having human research ethics committee (HREC) approval. Only eight (6%) experimental research papers involving humans did not seek or gain HREC approval. Despite the high level of HREC approval, only 47% (n = 83) of respondents had read or referred to ethical documents governing research in Australia. For guidance on ethical considerations in research, 30% (n = 53) of respondents indicated a primary reliance on colleagues, 36% (n = 65) would use local HREC guidelines alone and 32% (n = 58) would use HREC guidelines in conjunction with other ethical guidelines. Responses indicated that place of employment, academic qualifications and prior research involvement impact on a physiotherapist’s ability to apply for research funding and progress research to completion through publication. This survey has implications for tertiary training programs, research supervisors, clinicians and physiotherapy managers.

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