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8.3.2 Insufficient Capacity for Review
Concerns about workload and personnel resources are factors that detract from
the effectiveness of research ethics committees even in affluent settings (Schuppli
and Fraser 2007 ). It is therefore not surprising that ethics committees in develop-
ing countries often lack the resources to give adequate attention to ethical review.
A study published in 2009 that examined the effectiveness and training needs of
African research ethics committees concluded that the 'major constraints identi-
fied are shortage of resources and inadequate training of the ERC [ethical review
committee] members' (Nyika et al. 2009 : 193). The study also summarized the
constraints hindering the adequate review of study protocols in African settings.
Table 8.1 lists the constraints in order of perceived gravity: that is, the first con-
straint is the one noted by the highest number of respondents.
Other studies have also shown that 'the capacity to conduct ethical review in
developing countries needs to be developed or enhanced' (Hyder et al. 2004 ).
Evidently, insufficient resources, lack of expertise and so on can render the protec-
tion of human research participants unreliable or even non-existent. Under these
circumstances, it is unlikely that research ethics committees in developing countries
would be in a position to enforce the requirement of benefit sharing. In order to
carry out this task, they would need investment in both infrastructure and training.
As the next subsection will show, this issue is particularly problematic when
research ethics committees in the country of the research funder or sponsor are
likely to ignore the obligation. Encouragingly, though, a funding stream from the
European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership is successfully
funding the establishment of new ethics committees in Africa and capacity-building
for existing committees. 6
Table 8.1 Constraints on African Research Ethics Committees
Insufficient resources
Expertise on ethical review lacking
Pressure from researchers
Lack of active or consistent participation by members
Lack of recognition of importance of committee functions
Lack of support from institute concerned
Insufficient independence
Pressure from sponsors
Unequal treatment of applicants in review
Source Nyika et al. ( 2009 ) (modified)
6 See the partnership's website at .
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