21 Apr 2021
An international group of experts in community engagement for health research has identified urgent measures to foster involvement of local communities in emergency research, such as the Ebola outbreak in Democratic Republic of Congo.
The workshop was held in Dakar, Senegal from 17-18 March and was a collaboration between four partners: the Nuffield Council on Bioethics; the African coaLition for Epidemic Research, Response and Training (ALERRT) consortium; the Institute for Health Research, Epidemiological Surveillance and Training (IRESSEF) in Dakar, Senegal; and the Wellcome Centre for Ethics and Humanities (WEH) at Oxford University.
It brought together experts from survivor, policy, research, and implementing organisations with experience of conducting community engagement in research during humanitarian crises. Although many of the experiences cited related to the recent and current Ebola outbreaks in West Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo, the relevance of discussions extended beyond Ebola.
The overall messages that emerged from the workshop are that that research will not be possible unless a trusting relationship between researchers and potential participants can be developed, and the intrinsic value of community engagement in the context of research lies in its contribution to supporting a mutually respectful partnership between researchers and communities. Accordingly, effective and respectful engagement starts from a recognition of the experiences of people affected by the emergency, and the history associated with those experiences, and it should actively involve affected populations from the beginning and throughout the course of the research endeavour, as a two-way process contributing to the design, conduct, and outcomes of research.
Specific ideas for areas of action that emerged from the workshop included:
For funders of research
For research ethics committees
For media organisations
For national governments
Find out more about the Nuffield Council on Bioethics inquiry on research in global health emergencies.