UCLan is first university in Europe to commit to highest ethical research standards abroad

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TRUST consortium in Nairobi

University signs up to Global Code of Conduct for Research in Resource-Poor Settings

The University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) is the first European university to adopt a global code designed to prevent the export of unethical research practices to low and middle-income countries.

Tackling what is known as ‘ethics dumping’, the Global Code of Conduct for Research in Resource-Poor Settings (GCC) opposes double standards in international research and supports building long-term research relationships between lower-income and higher-income regions of the world.

Examples of ‘ethics dumping’ in low- and middle-income countries by researchers from high-income countries, such as Europe and the USA, include imposing high risks on research participants who are unlikely to benefit from the study’s results. It could also involve not respecting cultural requirements such as community approval for research involving indigenous populations and refusing to compensate for harm incurred during a study. Taking valuable biological samples out of the country without sharing the benefits and undertaking animal experimentation that is ethically unacceptable or even illegal in the researchers’ home countries could also be considered as ‘ethics dumping’.

I am delighted to see UCLan become the first university in Europe to adopt it and send out a clear message against ethics dumping.

The GCC sets out a framework of four values that all researchers should follow; fairness, respect, honesty and care. This involves researchers in high-income countries, from institutions like UCLan, collaborating with host country researchers during all stages to develop a culturally appropriate plan to share the benefits of the research, which could range from information, a new low-tech health intervention, or a vaccine.

Generally, no research should be carried out in a low-income country that would be prohibited in high-income countries. As part of this framework, the GCC requires all international researchers to obtain ethical approval from bodies in the country where the research will be undertaken, as well as from the researchers’ countries or institutions.

The GCC has been developed over four years by TRUST, an international collaborative EU-funded project, led by Professor Doris Schroeder, Director of the Centre for Professional Ethics at UCLan.

Authors of the ground-breaking initiative include representatives from highly influential global organisations, such as UNESCO and the Wellcome Trust and colleagues representing vulnerable populations. The GCC has already been adopted by the European Commission as a mandatory reference document for all research funded under the Horizon 2020 programme, by the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership and the University of Cape Town in South Africa.

Professor Schroeder said: “A pioneering international team has created the GCC using an ambitious participatory approach. It was a high-risk approach at the time, but we never lost sight of our mission, to stop ethics dumping. I am delighted to see UCLan become the first university in Europe to adopt it and send out a clear message against ethics dumping.”

Dr Lynne Livesey, Joint Institutional Lead at UCLan, said: “It is fantastic to see an academic from our own institution lead on a global campaign that will shape the future of research practice. The GCC is very much in line with our own institutional ethical values and practice and we are very happy to have this spirit captured in a short, clear and inspirational ethics code. We are very proud of Doris and what she has achieved with the global TRUST team.”

More information about the Global Code of Conduct for Research in Resource-Poor Settings is available online. The GCC is also available to download.

Lyndsey Boardman | 01 July 2019