New research project on humanitarian research ethics

Dr Annette Rid, Reader in Bioethics & Society at GHSM, was awarded a £9,500 grant from the Faculty of Social Science & Public Policy Research Fund to work on the project “How should humanitarian principles shape the conduct of health research during humanitarian emergencies? A pilot study”.

The humanitarian health field is rapidly growing. Research plays an important role in ensuring that humanitarian organizations provide high-quality public health and clinical interventions in ways that respect individuals’ and communities’ values and preferences. Yet open questions exist regarding the ethics of conducting health research involving human participants in humanitarian emergencies.

This pilot study aims to advance the ethical debate by exploring how recognised humanitarian principles and values (e.g. humanity, impartiality, neutrality) should shape the conduct of such research during humanitarian emergencies, and how these principles relate to recognised ethical norms for research (e.g. reasonable risk-benefit ratio, fair participant selection, informed consent). The study will interview professionals with a humanitarian background and experience of conducting or coordinating health research, using the clinical trials during the 2013-16 West African Ebola epidemic as an example.

Annette says: “I’m really excited to have the opportunity to work on this project with Georgia Venner, Research Associate at GHSM. Both researchers and humanitarian actors have well developed and distinctive ethical norms and frameworks that govern their professions. Yet to date, the ethics of conducting health research in humanitarian emergencies has almost exclusively been discussed using recognised ethical norms for research as the starting point. This project is the first to systematically explore how humanitarian principles should inform ethical deliberation about such research.”

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