Home Implementation Research WHO TDR Update: Ensuring ethical conduct of implementation research

WHO TDR Update: Ensuring ethical conduct of implementation research

by Public Health Update

Ensuring ethical conduct of implementation research 

Today (28 June 2019), TDR and WHO launched a new training course on ethics in implementation research to ensure appropriate engagement with research subjects and relevant communities and to safeguard against any potential harm.

The challenge

Implementation research (IR) contributes to understanding and addressing barriers to implementation and scale-up of effective and quality health interventions, strategies and policies. IR is thus essential for accelerating progress toward universal health coverage. TDR undertakes a range of activities aiming to strengthen IR capacity in low- and middle-income countries, including the development of training tools such as the IR Toolkit.

As with all research involving human subjects, IR protocols must be reviewed by research ethics committees. However, given the “real life” context of IR, it is important that researchers and research ethics committees are familiar with the specific ethical issues of IR. The need was therefore identified to develop guidance for researchers and research ethics committees on the ethical implications of IR.

The solution

TDR and WHO’s Global Health Ethics team, both part of WHO’s new Science Division, have jointly developed a training course for researchers and research ethics committees on the important ethical considerations in IR. The course comprises six interactive modules interspersed with activities including country case studies, role-play and quizzes.

“This training course meets an important need to address ethical considerations in implementation research conducted in real-life settings,” said WHO Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan. “TDR and WHO will facilitate country-led train-the-trainer workshops to help disseminate this training course.”

The training course is being launched at the Global Conference on Implementation Science and Scale-Up, which is co-hosted by the Centre of Excellence for Science of Implementation and Scale-up (CoE-SISU), BRAC James P Grant School of Public Health at BRAC University and UNICEF Bangladesh, and co-sponsored by TDR.

Key ethical questions to consider when planning a study include:

  • Does the study address a priority concern of the community?
  • Who are the stakeholders in this study?
  • How should community or stakeholder engagement occur?
  • Who should represent the community in determining participation in the study?
  • Should informed consent be obtained? If yes, from whom?
  • Who are the research subjects?
  • Who will own the data?
  • How will privacy and confidentiality of data collected electronically be assured?
  • Are there potential harms associated with the intervention? If so, for whom?
  • Who stands to benefit from the study?

The Regional Training Centres supported by TDR (one in each of the six WHO regions) will help disseminate this new ethics training course (along with other implementation research training materials) and facilitate train-the-trainer workshops.

“We are proud to launch this new training course that adds to our growing suite of implementation research training materials, including the IR Toolkit and Massive Open Online Course on IR,” said TDR Director John Reeder.

For more information on all of our research capacity strengthening activities and resources, please visit: https://www.who.int/tdr/capacity/strengthening/en/.


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