Communities of Practice (COPs) play an important role in creating a platform for research management professionals to collaborate on issues of common interest and best practices, amongst other things. This was certainly the case when the Southern African Research Innovation and Management (SARIMA) and Southern Africa Network for Biosciences (SANBio) commissioned the drafting of regional guidelines and toolkit for Research Ethics Access and Benefit Sharing within the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
The aim of this initiative was to develop regional Guidelines on Research Ethics to support researchers at research institutions, national research centres and universities, and private sector companies to adhere to principles of ethical research methodologies and policies, particularly those involving indigenous knowledge or traditional knowledge. This is to support the implementation of the SADC Protocol on Science, Technology and Innovation, with particular reference to indigenous knowledge, its technologies and commercialisation. This project is funded by the GIZ Strengthening National Linkages. The title of the project is “Sustainable capacity development initiative to create awareness on the SADC Protocol on Science, Technology and Innovation (STI), among key national structures’ stakeholders and to strengthen their capacity to develop policy frameworks and mobilise resources for SADC STI Protocol implementation”.
The COP for Research Ethics and Integrity in Southern Africa formed a Working Group which has participated in developing (1) an inception report, (2) a desktop literature review, (3) a SADC Regional Research Ethics Guideline, and (4) a SADC Regional Research Ethics Toolkit. These documents were presented at a virtual expert validation meeting that was held 1 September 2021. This virtual meeting was organised by the SADC Secretariat and was attended by representatives of SADC State Members.
This initiative was co-facilitated by Eleni Flack-Davison and Sidney Engelbrecht with professionalism and ensuring the timely delivery of a high-quality result. The Working Group members were actively involved in critical discussions to frame the product. Jasper Knight, with the assistance of postgraduate students from the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, played a pivotal role in authoring the desktop review on the implementation of the Nagoya Protocol across SADC. Furthermore, Jasper deserves applause for his critical reading of the various components of the product and editorial support. Retha Visagie and Winston Beukes led the work of sub-groups on the Guideline and the Toolkit documents and conceptualised these two documents. We want to acknowledge the dynamic role of Tanya Coetzee throughout the project. She acted as the secretariat and liaison person to promote the functioning of the working groups. Tanya Coetzee, Eleni Flack-Davison, Sidney Engelbrecht and Winston Beukes made substantial contributions to both the Guideline and Toolkit working groups, whereas Marizvikuru Manjoro, Dimpho Ralefala, Retha Visagie and Pamela Claassen focused on various sections of the Guideline. We also wish to acknowledge the contribution of a professional editor Leatitia Romero in providing the final touches to the product to ensure quality formatted and technically correct documents.
Members of the COP and Working Group come from higher education institutions in SADC: Eleni Flack-Davison and Jasper Knight (University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg), Retha Visagie and Tanya Coetzee (University of South Africa), Winston Beukes (Stellenbosch University), Marizvikuru Manjoro (University of Venda), Dimpho Ralefala (University of Botswana), Pamela Claassen (University of Namibia), and Sidney Engelbrecht (University of Cape Town).
Written by Sidney Engelbrecht, UCT & SARIMA