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Principal Investigators: Elysée Nouvet, McMaster & Lisa Schwartz, McMaster


To what extent were WHO and international research ethics guidelines lived as feasible, sufficient, or best practice within culturally and otherwise diverse national and sub-national West African contexts during the West Africa Ebola crisis? This qualitative study explores what upholding, or trying to uphold, standards of ethical research actually meant and looked like during the Ebola outbreak, in the eyes of those directly involved in this research or its oversight.

Specifically, our goals are:
(i) To deepen understanding of challenges of ensuring the ethical conduct of research during public health emergencies, with particular attention to the rolling out of clinical trials
(ii) To learn how Ebola quarantine and isolation disease control measures, such as voluntary consent, interacted with ethical standards of research interventions in Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia
(iii) To add evidence to existing recommendations for the ethical conduct of research in public health emergencies

Programmes and Outcomes Achieved

This study is designed and positioned to inform contextually-sensitive guidance, oversight, and preparedness for the ethical conduct of research in future humanitarian crisis settings.
By clarifying the complexities and challenges of conducting research in distinct African humanitarian crisis settings, and including the perspective of patient/participants and their families, this study will make a substantial contribution to the evidence-base currently informing disaster and public health emergency research ethics. Findings of this study will be made accessible to a broad academic and non-academic audience, and will include articles, policy recommendations, case studies in French and English.


Research snapshot

Get an overview of this research study and its findings in this research snapshot.



Article Ebola

Participants’ Perceptions of Ebola Research Report to participants

Literature Review Ebola

Blurring Lines: Complexities of Ethical Challenges in the Conduct of West African Ebola Research

Briefing Note

From Tokenism to Meaningful Partnerships

Latest Updates

Television and Ebola

Jan 2018

How televisions can change disease perception & reduce stigma


How can cultural history of ‘health’ change disease perception & reduce stigma?

Dec 2018

A brief comparison of Influenza, 1918-1919, and Ebola, 2014-2015


The challenges of developing a career as an anthropologist and qualitative health researcher in post-Ebola Guinea

May 2018

The Guinean post-Ebola research landscape Following Guinean independence, Guinea’s leaders favoured the development of technical and professional schools meant to train specialists and professionals to take over the roles formerly…


Listening to Those Who Lived Through Ebola Trials First-hand

Aug 2017

As part of a qualitative study, since December 2016 we have been gathering accounts of research conducted during the West Africa Ebola outbreak. Our focus is on stakeholders in Guinea,…


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