National and international guidelines outlining ethical conduct in research involving humans and animals have evolved into large and complex documents making the process of gaining ethics approval a complicated task for researchers in the area. Researchers, in particular those who are relatively new to the ethics approval process, can struggle to understand the parts of an ethics guideline that apply to their research and the nature of their ethical obligations to trial participants. With the scope of medical research likely to continue to expand in the future, it is clear that ethics guidelines will only increase in complexity and number. This paper describes one possible solution to the problem: the use of an internet-based expert system to intelligently and interactively distribute the information stored in ethics guidelines to individual researchers. This paper also details how one such system was designed and tested with respect to Australian medical research ethics guidelines.
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Competing interests: None.
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