Authors: Sidney Engelbrecht (UCT and SARIMA Committee Member, Madaleen Claasens (Independent Ethics Consultant)
On the last day of the 2019 SARIMA Annual Conference held in Somerset Cape Town, Sidney Engelbrecht announced the launch of a research ethics survey. Subsequently, SARIMA members and other stakeholders were invited to participate in a study which involved the completion of an online survey. The participation was entirely voluntary, and participants could withdraw at any time. As the title suggests, this study aimed to determine the need for research ethics training in Southern African Developing Countries (SADC).
This study was approved by the University of Cape Town, Faculty of Health Sciences, Human
Research Ethics Committee. The team comprised of Sidney Engelbrecht (PI), Drs Pamisha Pillay and Madaleen Claasens as co-investigators. We would like to acknowledge and thank Armand Barnard (based at the SARIMA Office) for distributing the survey. The survey closed on 31 October 2019 and we received an overwhelming response from various stakeholders in SADC (for example: Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, etc.).
Summary of the need for ethics training in South African Developing Countries:
- SARIMA is the professional body where most respondents are registered.
- 69% of respondents who completed the survey are from Universities.
- 73% of the institutions indicated that they have a Research Ethics Committee(s)
- 37% of the institutions have Research Ethics Committees (RECs) for animal research, biosafety and environmental and human research.
- Human Research Ethics Committees are the most (70%) and it is followed by Animal Research Ethics Committees (57%).
- 50% of the RECs are registered due to the requirement by law. Only 10% are registered on a voluntary basis but what is a concern that 40% of RECs are not registered.
- Most of the registered committees are registered with the National Health Research Ethics Council (NHREC).
- Only 13% of respondents require assistance with establishing a REC.
- 63% of RECs are supported by the institution’s leadership and governance structures.
- Various challenges faced by RECs were highlighted and seems that most challenges are
related to administrative issues, non-compliant researchers and a need for training on
- The respondents indicated that the institutional culture towards applying for research
ethics approval differ greatly from supportive to impairing.
- Various regulatory frameworks that govern the functioning of the REC were mentioned
but most of the respondents indicated NHREC.
- 40% of the respondents indicated that they are required to obtain and furnish proof of ethics training.
- 14% indicated that they do not have to obtain and furnish proof of ethics training while 46% of respondents did not answer this question. It seems thus that 60% of the respondents need to be made aware of the importance of training.
- Social and behavioural research and educational research seems to be the typical research to be reviewed by RECs followed by biomedical research. Most typical issues that prevent Recs from granting ethical clearance seems to be administrative related (60%) followed by informed consent (55%) and privacy/data protection; many of these responses relate to human RECs (93%).
- Stakeholders which requires ethics training seems to be mostly REC members, followed by REC administrators and then students. 50 % respondents indicated that they require training regarding the REC review process and 45% also require training for students and academic supervisors.
- Areas of additional support were noted as templates for documentation and drafting of SOPs. Research misconduct, questionable research practices and data management was indicated as matters relating to research integrity where training is needed.
- 48% of respondents indicated that they need training with regards to social media.
- 54% of the respondents indicated that they would like to connect to networks of professional bodies to receive information on ethical issues.