1. What does the BAC do?
The BAC is an advisory body that makes policy recommendations to the Singapore government regarding the conduct of human biomedical research in Singapore.
The BAC has issued numerous recommendations addressing specific issues in human biomedical research in the following reports, which can be downloaded here:
- Ethical, Legal and Social Issues in Human Stem Cell Research, Reproductive and Therapeutic Cloning (2002)
- Human Tissue Research (2002)
- Research Involving Human Subjects: Guidelines for IRBs (2004)
- Genetic Testing and Genetic Research (2005)
- Personal Information in Biomedical Research (2007)
- Donation of Human Eggs for Research (2008)
- Human-Animal Combinations in Stem Cell Research (2010)
- Ethics Guidelines for Human Biomedical Research (2015)
- Neuroscience Research Report (2021)
- Interim Report on Mitochondrial Genome Replacement Technology (2021)
- Ethics Guidelines for Human Biomedical Research (2021 Revised)
2. Who are the members of the BAC?
The BAC is currently chaired by Professor Lee Eng Hin, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, National University of Singapore; and Emeritus Consultant, National University Hospital and comprises 18 other members, who are well-respected experts from fields including medicine, life sciences, law, public policy, and philosophy. The current list of members can be found here.
3. What does the BAC consider to be “human biomedical research”?
The BAC, in its 2015 Ethics Guidelines for Human Biomedical Research, defines “human biomedical research” as referring to:
“…any research done for the ultimate purpose of studying, diagnosing, treating or preventing, any disease, injury, disorder, or condition of the human mind or body, and which entails the involvement of humans, human biological materials or information derived from humans or human biological materials. Also included is research on human physiological processes.”
4. If I am a researcher, do I need to submit my research proposal to the BAC for approval?
No. The BAC does not adjudicate individual research proposals, nor does it have supervisory power over any research institution in Singapore. Researchers intending to conduct human biomedical research in Singapore ought to submit their proposals to their respective Institutional Review Boards.
5. Does the BAC make any recommendations regarding clinical medical ethics?
No. The remit of the BAC only covers human biomedical research. Such matters fall under the authority of the Ministry of Health, the National Medical Ethics Committee, and the Singapore Medical Council.
6. Are the BAC’s recommendations legally binding?
The BAC does not possess any legislative or regulatory powers. However, the BAC’s recommendations have been recognised to be an ethical standard that researchers ought to abide by, under the MOH’s 2007 Governance Framework for Human Biomedical Research.
7. How does the BAC choose which topics to work on?
The BAC is constantly monitoring international scientific developments to keep abreast of the latest advances in human biomedical research. Feedback is also sought periodically from local stakeholders, which includes researchers, institutional review boards, and other relevant professional bodies. Once the BAC identifies an area of research which could raise significant ethical, legal, or social concerns in Singapore, the Chair would proceed to appoint a Review Group to study the topic in greater depth.
8. How does the BAC arrive at their final recommendations?
Once a topic has been identified, a Review Group would be appointed and tasked with studying it in greater detail. Review Groups would not only comprise BAC members, but domain experts would also be co-opted to provide specialised insights to the issues at hand.
An important part of the BAC’s deliberative process is public consultation. A consultation paper would be issued, and over a period of 6-8 weeks, the BAC would engage with medical professionals, researchers, religious organisations, as well as members of the general public in Singapore to gather feedback.
As part of their deliberations, the BAC would then study the comments received before making its recommendations, which would be published in a report.
The past BAC reports can be downloaded here.
9. How do I participate in the BAC’s discussions regarding research ethics in Singapore?
The BAC periodically conducts public consultations in order to invite views from the public on the ethical, legal and social issues arising from human biomedical research in Singapore.
The BAC also holds public forums frequently, during which ethical issues related to BAC’s on-going projects would be raised for discussion with members of the public.
Information about BAC’s public consultations, as well as activities, can be found here.