The Global Code of Conduct for Research in Resource-Poor Settings: A case study with BiZiFED2 in Pakistan

Nicola Lowe, Professor of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Central Lancashire, led on a study that investigated how the Global Code of Conduct for Research in Resource-Poor Settings (GCC) can be applied to nutrition and health related research in Pakistan.

This project is the first to test the practical application and acceptability of the GCC, in an environment where Muslim beliefs and values are central to the comprehension of ethics.

The GCC consists of 23 articles to guide the establishment of equitable research partnerships and was adopted by the European Commission in 2018 as mandatory for their major funding streams. Ethics dumping, inequitable research partnerships and exploitative research are a major concern for countries on the Development Assistant Committee (DAC) list. In Pakistan, there are many factors that could lead to exploitation in research. For instance, high levels of illiteracy, especially amongst females. Local challenges in Pakistan also include terrorism, poverty, joblessness, tension on the eastern and western borders, and political and economic instability. It was anticipated that findings of this project would indicate whether the GCC is workable and beneficial within this setting and whether it needs to be adapted according to the local cultural and geopolitical context.

This project was undertaken within the broader context of an ongoing research collaboration with academic researchers, charitable organisations and community members, entitled BiZiFED2. The study employed a participatory approach to conduct research with, not about, communities. The stakeholders in Pakistan included:

  1. Representatives from local communities (Jirga members - male community elders).
  2. Local researchers (early stage researchers and senior researchers involved in the BIZIFED project in Pakistan, and researchers at the Rehman Medical Institute and Khyber Medical University in Peshawar).
  3. Local research ethics committee members at Khyber Medical University
  4. Members of the research implementation partner organisations: Abaseen Foundation in the UK and in Pakistan.

This project will contribute to a global effort to eradicate ethics dumping in all resource-poor settings, with local, national and global impacts: training and compensating local researchers and community members for research activities; raising awareness amongst the community, researchers and research ethics committee members about the factors that contribute to ethics dumping and how to prevent it; aiding understanding of the need for equitable research relationships in Pakistan; highlighting the effectiveness of applying the GCC in a real-world setting, and more specifically in a Muslim setting.