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BMC Medical Ethics
(Accessed 19 May 2018)
15 May 2018
A scoping review of reporting ‘Ethical Research Practices’ in research conducted among refugees and war-affected populations in the Arab world
Authors: Jihad Makhoul, Rana F. Chehab, Zahraa Shaito and Abla M. Sibai
Ethical research conduct is a cornerstone of research practice particularly when research participants include vulnerable populations. This study mapped the extent of reporting ethical research practices in studies conducted among refugees and war-affected populations in the Arab World, and assessed variations by time, country of study, and study characteristics.
An electronic search of eight databases resulted in 5668 unique records published between 2000 and 2013. Scoping review yielded 164 eligible articles for analyses.
Ethical research practices, including obtaining institutional approval, access to the community/research site, and informed consent/assent from the research participants, were reported in 48.2, 54.9, and 53.7% of the publications, respectively. Institutional approval was significantly more likely to be reported when the research was biomedical in nature compared to public health and social (91.7% vs. 54.4 and 32.4%), when the study employed quantitative compared to qualitative or mixed methodologies (61.7% vs. 26.8 and 42.9%), and when the journal required a statement on ethical declarations (57.4% vs. 27.1%). Institutional approval was least likely to be reported in papers that were sole-authored (9.5%), when these did not mention a funding source (29.6%), or when published in national journals (0%). Similar results were obtained for access to the community site and for seeking informed consent/assent from study participants.
The responsibility of inadequacies in adherence to ethical research conduct in crisis settings is born by a multitude of stakeholders including funding agencies, institutional research boards, researchers and international relief organizations involved in research, as well as journal editors, all of whom need to play a more proactive role for enhancing the practice of ethical research conduct in conflict settings.