Research is an essential tool to secure health and wellbeing for the people of Africa and the world. Without deeply understanding the complexities of health issues, we are unlikely to develop the necessary innovations to address them. However, when that research involves human subjects, it becomes critical to consider both the potential benefits and the potential risks of that research. It’s a complex field, and one which requires unique responses to local challenges. Jive Media Africa are proud to be working with the South Africa Research Ethics Training Initiative (SARETI) to develop communication tools to support the initiative by celebrating and nurturing health research ethics expertise in Africa.
SARETI is an African-based, multi-disciplinary Masters programme at the University of KwaZulu Natal (Pietermaritzburg) focusing on strengthening and deepening research ethics in South Africa and Africa. SARETI provides a variety of educational opportunities, varying from short courses to full masters programmes, and partners with numerous organisations in Africa, the United States and Europe. SARETI’s staff represent many facets of research ethics and are drawn from South African and international universities.
Jive is particularly excited about this work because it challenges us to think about how to do better public engagement around science. As an organisation which spends a lot of time navigating spaces between science and society, we feel that research ethics practitioners have a lot to contribute to the discussion on public engagement. Research ethics processes require researchers to engage with participants, often members of the communities which suffer the health problem at hand.
And this engagement doesn’t only happen at the end of the research as a way of “disseminating” findings but by necessity happens before, during and after the research. Not only do experts have to find creative ways of translating their science in order to have conversations with “non-science” audiences, but they are also compelled to listen to the responses of these audiences – and to think through the benefits and the risks of their research.
That kind of interaction fundamentally alters the research and over time, shifts the research agenda. And in a world where decisions are made for millions by relatively few, having meaningful conversations with people about their health and wellbeing, and about the impact of research in their lives, has to be a good thing.
Please visit the SARETI website if you would like to view or receive copies of the 2010 to 2014 newsletters: http://sareti.ukzn.ac.za/Newsletters.aspx