Network of Ethical Relationships model for global North–South population health research

Global Public Health
Volume 13, 2017   Issue 7

Network of Ethical Relationships model for global North–South population health research
Karen Morrison, Sandra Tomsons, Angela Gomez & Martin Forde
Pages: 819-842
Published online: 12 Jan 2017
Although a substantial body of literature exists that details how to address ethical issues and provide oversight for traditional research study designs, there currently is very little guidance available to researchers on how to deal with the unique and novel challenges that arise when conducting research that goes outside of these well-defined boundaries. One such example is North–South (N-S) team-based global population health (GPH) research. This paper presents a Network of Ethical Relationships (NER) model which can allow GPH researchers better understand and resolve ethical issues that arise in N-S collaborative research efforts. The NER model elucidates some of the core relationships involved in GPH research and sheds light on the complex milieu of moral, institutional, societal and legal processes in which it is embedded. The utility of the NER model is examined by reviewing 14 GPH research teams, looking at two relationships in more detail – Researcher–Ethics Board, and Researcher–Funder relationships. The paper argues that improved dialogue and flexibility in the application of formal ethical rules and procedures can lead to research being conducted in a more ethical manner since it better accounts for the multitude of voices and perspectives influencing researchers’ choices and actions.