The Knowledge Management, Bioethics and Research (KBR) team of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) has coordinated the development of the ProEthos platform to systematize the ethical review of research studies with human participants, to strengthen the research ethics committees in Latin American and Caribbean countries. ProEthos is more than a management tool that speeds up and improves the committees’ review processes, but it also includes tools that help to improve the quality of ethical reviews, contributing to improve the protection of research participants.
The first version of ProEthos was developed in cooperation with the Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Paraná, in Brazil, with the support of BIREME/PAHO/WHO to promote its maintenance and use in the countries following the free and open source software model. Moreover, for the first time a license for software use was prepared by PAHO with the support of its legal area. This license was adapted from another open license LGPL (GNU Lesser General Public License) worldwide known and used. PAHO’s license keeps the main open features for use, distribution and adaptation/changes of the platform, with additional specific aspects on non-commercialization and on International Organizations.
The 1st Regional ProEthos Workshop (I Taller Regional de ProEthos) was held in February 2015, at BIREME/PAHO/WHO headquarters in São Paulo, Brazil, in coordination with KBR/PAHO. The goal of this workshop was to inform the 14 participants from 7 different countries about the installation, settings, maintenance and operation of the platform. Nowadays, ProEthos is being used in Argentina, Honduras and Peru. The implementation process also takes place in El Salvador, Guatemala, Colombia, Chile, Costa Rica and Panama, and it is being started in Trinidad and Tobago, in 2017.
“ProEthos is being welcomed with great enthusiasm because it responds to a genuine need of the research ethics committees in the region. The implementation process is being very enriching since the users feel a sense of ownership regarding the platform. They had even found new ways to incorporate it into their processes and to adjust it to their own needs, that we did not anticipate”, explained Carla Saenz, PAHO Regional Adviser on Bioethics.
This learning process on the use of ProEthos together with other countries, and the continuous upgrade of the technological platform, as well as the reflection on how to better answer the requests made by the countries in a sustainable manner led to the development of ProEthos 2, in 2016. With the technical coordination of BIREME/PAHO/WHO and keeping the free and open source software policy, this renewed version of ProEthos adopted a new technology and brings innovation to some functionalities of the system.
Once the development of ProEthos 2 is finished in May 2017, the priority for the second semester is to support the countries in migrating into the new platform. On this regard, Renato Murasaki, Manager of Methodologies and Information Technologies at BIREME/PAHO/WHO stated that “the new ProEthos platform is based on current technologies and standards of web system development that makes its easier for the countries to update, maintain and use. The next challenge will be to promote the free and open source software culture enabling the countries to carry on with the collaborative development of the platform.”