More on ethics for health research in the Global South

Reproductive Health Research Methods Workshop, Kabul

Following our recent conversation about students and health research ethics (particularly on sensitive topics) I thought it might be helpful to collate resources for ethical research in the Global South, and to critically evaluate those in relation to local community need.

I’ll add to this post as and when I find relevant resources but feel free to share any materials you use in practice. While this is focusing on a health research in the context of developing countries, much of the advice will apply to social research across disciplines worldwide.

You may find the following useful if…

  • you are planning or undertaking social or health research or development work in the Global South
  • you are teaching ethics to students (at any level), volunteers or project workers and want to broaden your understanding of what ‘ethics’ in research can really mean
  • you are seeking to critique dominant narratives of ‘how to do ethical research’ and thinking more critically about innovative practice in community settings
  • you’re making lesson plans or reading lists dealing with research ethics in global health research

You may find some of the papers are worth reading together, or critiquing across each other as they all promote slightly different perspectives on ethical practice.

The ethics of research related to healthcare in developing countries although written from a largely Western perspective this guide from Nuffield encourages lots of reflection on good practice and the barriers to health research worldwide.

The structure and function of Research Ethics Committees in Africa: A case study Open access paper by Kass et al (it’s a few years old but raises some useful questions and serves as a baseline to compare current practices back to).

Research Ethics Web

A field training guide for human subjects research by Merritt et al plus guides in Mandarin, French, English and Thai

Bioethics Resources for Investigators and Research Ethics Committees links to worldwide resources on specific issues around ethics in healthcare research

Ethics in international health research: a perspective from the developing world This WHO hosted paper by Bhutta encourages a view of ethics that moves beyond discussions by ethicists or researchers to wider communities and practitioners.

Reflections and recommendations on research ethics in developing countries An older paper by Benetar that’s still relevant in terms of questioning the role that ethics committees can play.

What makes clinical research in developing countries ethical? The benchmarks of ethical research This paper by Emanuel et al has some practical pointers for any health or social research and the reference section may help anyone reviewing ethics issues more generally.

Ethics of Aboriginal Research Castellano highlights some of the tensions between formalised, Western ethics committees and their priorities and the needs of First Nation communities.

Ethics and best practice guidelines for training experiences in Global Health Crump et al focus not so much on health research here, but on training experiences more generally – many of which cross pollinate with research issues.

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