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Keywords:

  • Africa;
  • research;
  • ethics committees;
  • training program;
  • curriculum

ABSTRACT

Background:  As actors with the key responsibility for the protection of human research participants, Research Ethics Committees (RECs) need to be competent and well-resourced in order to fulfil their roles. Despite recent programs designed to strengthen RECs in Africa, much more needs to be accomplished before these committees can function optimally.

Objective:  To assess training needs for biomedical research ethics evaluation among targeted countries.

Methods:  Members of RECs operating in three targeted African countries were surveyed between August and November 2007. Before implementing the survey, ethical approvals were obtained from RECs in Switzerland, Cameroon, Mali and Tanzania. Data were collected using a semi-structured questionnaire in English and in French.

Results:  A total of 74 respondents participated in the study. The participation rate was 68%. Seventy one percent of respondents reported having received some training in research ethics evaluation. This training was given by national institutions (31%) and international institutions (69%). Researchers and REC members were ranked as the top target audiences to be trained. Of 32 topics, the top five training priorities were: basic ethical principles, coverage of applicable laws and regulations, how to conduct ethics review, evaluating informed consent processes and the role of the REC.

Conclusion:  Although the majority of REC members in the targeted African countries had received training in ethics, they expressed a need for additional training. The results of this survey have been used to design a training program in research ethics evaluation that meets this need.