Research ethics committees in Africa report inadequate funding, staffing and training

Baltimore -- Throughout Africa, the number of people participating in health research is on the rise, yet surprisingly little is known about how research ethics committees the critically important, independent review groups charged with protecting human subjects and reviewing protocols actually operate. In a new case study published in the January 2007 issue of PLoS Medicine, researchers from the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health aim to change that.

"Research ethics committees are designed to be third-party, independent review bodies to protect the welfare of research participants. But how are they set up in Africa? How do they operate? Some committees are hesitant to be too critical of studies, because in some African communities, a clinical study may bring jobs, medicines, or prestige," said principal investigator Nancy Kass, ScD, deputy director for public health at the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics and the Phoebe R. Berman Professor of Bioethics and Public Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

"Our case study closely examined how these committees function in Africa. The results can now help us better understand some very real, on-the-ground challenges they face," said Adnan A. Hyder, MD, MPH, PhD, core faculty of the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics and Assistant Professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Nancy Kass and Adnan Hyder also direct the Johns Hopkins-Fogarty International Research Ethics Training Program for Africa.

The latest case study from Nancy Kass and Adnan Hyder included the active collaboration of nearly a dozen African researchers. The history and operational structure of 12 research ethics committees in nine African countries were examined. Key findings of the new report include:

  • Research ethics committees in Africa are facing a number of chall

Contact: Ed Bodensiek
Johns Hopkins University

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