Prof. Doris Schroeder and Dr Nadia Kornioti, UCLan Cyprus
In June 2023, 50 PREPARED members and distinguished invite-only guests travelled to Paris for a 3-day conference. We were lucky enough to be hosted at the UNESCO headquarters by Chief of Bioethics Dr Dafna Feinholz and her very efficient staff — a special thanks to Raji Pajany.
Engaged and motivated discussions took place during the main sessions, and almost as much during the breaks. Topics of discussion included:
- Can the silos of research ethics and research integrity be bridged?
- Can research be accelerated whilst maintaining high ethical standards?
- Which ethical values are important in guiding research during crisis?
- How can groups who suffered disproportionally during COVID-19, including researchers, be better protected during the next pandemic?
- How can researchers reach policy makers?
- How can research become less risky for marginalized populations?
In many of the sessions, an emphasis was placed on listening to the heightened difficulties of marginalized populations.
Ethical research cannot afford to leave the least advantaged behind. It must make a special effort to contribute solutions to their problems.
Representatives of marginalized populations from Kenya and South Africa were able to shed light on research during COVID-19. They also engaged on the question of whether “protective” exclusion from research is worse than the risks taken by participating in research. As indigenous San leader Collin Louw emphasised:
“We should not be blocked from research because we are called vulnerable, we are made vulnerable by the way you conduct research.”
We have two years to complete our work and build a moral framework for research ethics and integrity during global crisis, but early indications are that the following will be essential:
- Think smart – Build a short ethics code that is easy to understand and allows for local solutions.
- Think bottom-up – Take precarious life situations of all those who contribute to research into consideration.
- Think big picture – Link PREPARED work to the big ethics questions that cannot be resolved by researchers alone but that cannot be ignored; questions about vaccine distribution, miscommunication and distrust, extremely under resourced health services, etc.
- Think global – Build output that is not Eurocentric and that can have impact globally.
Find out more in our report, featuring beautiful photos by our Nairobi photographer Iddah Akinyi.