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Dealing with the absence of an ethical board committee in a conflict setting

How can researchers deal with the lack of ethical protocols, guidance, and boards in a conflict setting?
Here's a table summarizing key considerations for conducting research in conflict-affected settings in healthcare:

Dealing with the absence of an ethical board committee in a conflict setting can present challenges in ensuring ethical oversight and protection of research participants. However, there are steps you can take to address this situation responsibly:

  1. Seek External Guidance: If there is no local ethical board committee available, consider reaching out to external organizations or institutions that specialize in research ethics. They may be able to provide guidance, review your research proposal, and offer recommendations to ensure ethical standards are upheld.
  2. Collaborate with Local Stakeholders: Engage with local healthcare providers, community leaders, and relevant authorities to seek their input and perspectives on the ethical considerations of your research. Their insights can help shape your research design and ensure cultural sensitivity.
  3. Conduct a Self-Ethical Review: Undertake a comprehensive self-review of your research proposal and protocols. Evaluate the potential risks, benefits, and ethical implications of your study. Adhere to international ethical guidelines, such as the Belmont Report, Declaration of Helsinki, or other relevant frameworks.
  4. Obtain Informed Consent: Prioritize informed consent from all research participants. Ensure that participants are provided with clear and understandable information about the study’s purpose, procedures, potential risks and benefits, and their right to withdraw at any time. Document their voluntary agreement to participate.
  5. Protect Participant Confidentiality: Take precautions to protect participant confidentiality and privacy. Anonymize data, use secure storage methods, and limit access to identifiable information. Safeguarding participant data is crucial in conflict settings where security and confidentiality can be at risk.
  6. Mitigate Risks: Conduct a thorough risk assessment and develop a risk management plan. Identify potential risks associated with the research, such as physical harm, psychological distress, or breaches of confidentiality. Implement strategies to minimize and address these risks effectively.
  7. Engage in Continuous Monitoring and Evaluation: Establish mechanisms for ongoing monitoring and evaluation of your research. Regularly assess the ethical implications of your study and make adjustments as necessary to ensure the well-being and safety of participants.
  8. Document Ethical Considerations: Maintain detailed records of the ethical considerations, steps taken, and decision-making processes throughout your research. This documentation will demonstrate your commitment to ethical conduct and serve as evidence of the ethical rigor of your study.

While these steps can help address the absence of an ethical board committee, it is essential to recognize the limitations and seek expert guidance whenever possible. Ethical oversight and protection of participants should remain a top priority, even in challenging environments such as conflict settings.

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Conducting Health Research in Conflict Settings: Navigating Research Challenges for Impactful Evidence

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