Ethical Challenges in Short-Term Global Health Training

With a better understanding of the concerns, Bryce contacts his home advisor and research sponsor.  Click image to start video.

CASE 9: Selecting a Research Project

Vignette 2: Bryce engages with the local community and his local advisor. As it turns out, this community had a bad experience with a visiting researcher in the past. In that situation, a group of researchers collected data from the community about illnesses in their livestock. The community never heard back from the researchers about the results or what they could do to reduce the risks of these illnesses. In the meantime, however, the increased attention to diseases in their livestock led to lower prices for the community’s goods at the market.

Bryce now better understands the community’s concerns. He is distressed that he did not consider these concerns before proposing his research project. He contacts his home advisor, and his research sponsor, about this latest development. To his surprise, both are willing to postpone his original research project and allow him to pursue a different one with his local supervisor. After continued discussions, he will conduct interviews with the local community members about their current understanding of influenza and interactions with outside researchers.

What important lesson has Bryce learned from his experience so far?

History matters little when it comes to long-term research collaborations.
This is incorrect. Bryce did not realize it, but a prior interaction of this community with visiting researchers has affected the way they view researchers today. Researchers should be aware of this. It might be helpful to ask about prior experiences in advance of collaborating for a research project. Choose a different answer.
The local community misunderstood his research proposal; it is very unlikely to lead to stigma, and Bryce should spend efforts correcting them.
Even if Bryce is confident his project will not lead to stigma, the concerns of the community are quite legitimate. Bryce’s responsibility is not to “correct” the community of their misperception. Instead, he should use this as an opportunity to continue relationship building and understand them better. Choose a different answer.
As a trainee performing research, Bryce’s role is insignificant; his home advisor and local supervisor probably should have talked more about his research project.
Bryce perhaps took for granted the collaboration between his advisor at home and his local advisor in Asia. Even though he is a trainee, Bryce’s actions can impact the collaboration both positively and negatively. Choose a different answer.
In hindsight, Bryce now realizes he should have been more proactive in advance to collaborate with the local community and ensure his research question was appropriate and responsive to their needs.
This is correct. Although it is impossible to anticipate every issue, Bryce could have been distracted by his excitement over his project and the benefits it might have for his future career. The local community is uniquely impacted by the research; their input and participation in developing the research question can help ensure both its scientific validity and ethical conduct.
© Stanford University Center for Global Health and the Johns Hopkins University Berman Institute of Bioethics.

Project funding provided by Doris Duke Charitable Foundation (DDCF)