Research in global health emergencies: ethical issues


Published 28/01/2020

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In January 2020, we published the findings of a two year in-depth inquiry into the ethical issues relating to research in global health emergencies. The inquiry was run by an international working group which gathered evidence and experience from many contributors across the globe.

You can download the full report, short report and overview of the report in the left-hand navigation on this page. The overview and short version are available in Chinese, Farsi and French and the overview in Arabic, Portuguese and Spanish - see the translation page. You can also read the short report online.

Better evidence about what helps or doesn’t help during an emergency is needed in order to improve the response to global health emergencies. Research conducted during an emergency itself plays a crucial role in obtaining this evidence, and helps support the immediate response, as well as learning for the future.

The aim of the report is to identify ways in which research can be undertaken ethically during emergencies, in order to promote the contribution that ethically-conducted research can make to improving current and future emergency preparedness and response.

We have made 24 recommendations to ‘duty bearers’ such as research funders, research organisations, governments, and researchers. These are summarised in our call for action. We suggest changes that would align their policies and practices more closely to three core values of fairness, equal respect, and helping reduce suffering. The report presents these values in the form of an ‘ethical compass’ to guide the conduct of the very wide range of people involved in research in global health emergencies.

In May 2021, we published a report looking at the developments made since the report's publication.