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Ethical implications of diversity in disaster research

Matthew R. Hunt, PhD, PT, James A. Anderson, PhD, Renaud F. Boulanger, HBA


Enhancing the effectiveness, efficiency, and fairness of interventions is an increasing source of concern in the field of disaster response. As a result, the expansion of the disaster relief evidence base has been identified as a pressing need. There has been a corresponding increase in discussions of ethical standards and procedures for disaster research. In general, these discussions have focused on elucidating how traditional research ethics concerns can be operationalized in disaster settings. Less attention has been given to the exploration of the ethical implications of heterogeneity within the field of disaster research. Hence, while current efforts to discuss the ethics of disaster research in low-resource settings are very encouraging, it is clear that further initiatives will be crucial to promote the ethical conduct of disaster research. In this article, we explore how the ethical review of disaster research conducted in low-resource settings should account for this diversity. More specifically, we consider how the nature of the project (what?), sociopolitical and physical environment of research sites (where?), temporal proximity to the disaster event (when?), objectives motivating the research (why?), and identity of the stakeholders involved in the research process (who?) all relate to the ethics of disaster research.


developing countries, disasters, ethics, IRBs, human subjects research

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