African research ethics24th January 2007
Independent committees charged with reviewing medical research in African countries are struggling to do their jobs properly, according to a new paper.
Research ethics committees are a crucial step in validating medical research, but African countries have trouble staffing, funding and training them, according to new research published in the online journal PLoS Medicine.
Nonetheless, the number of Africans participating in health research is on the rise, according to the study, which looked at the history and operational structure of 12 research ethics committees in nine African countries.
The biggest problem was funding, with a quarter of the committees studied having no operational budget at all. The rest relied on funding from government or foreign donors and fees paid for ethical review. The study found some committees approved studies simply to secure the fees.
The authors say some committees were hesitant to criticise research proposals, as a clinical study might bring jobs, medicines or prestige to communities in Africa.
There was also a widespread lack of ethical expertise. More established committees were more likely to pay attention to ethical practice.
On January 18, at a national health research conference in Lusaka, Zambian health minister Angela Cifire said there was an "unacceptable" trend of scientists conducting health research in Zambia without ethical clearance.
She called for a Zambian ethical review board to regulate and monitor health research.
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Title: African research ethics
Author: Sue Knights
Article Id: 1813
Date Added: 24th Jan 2007