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Submitted by Jessica Hoel on
Hi Marguerite, Ethics in research involving human subjects is important no matter the topic, and is especially important when studying vulnerable populations like poor people in the developing world. When I designed my project, I was careful to think of potential risks for my subjects and took every reasonable precaution to protect them and their privacy. My research was supervised by Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) in Michigan and in Kenya. You can find more information about what my Michigan IRB required here: http://www.irb.umich.edu/. To answer some of your specific questions, all of my subjects were volunteers recruited by their village elder. They gave their verbal consent after being informed about the nature, benefits, and risks of my study. You can find a copy of my consent statement at the beginning of my baseline survey here: http://www-personal.umich.edu/~jesshoel/Hoel_MCDM_Baseline.pdf. My field team and I worked together to ensure that the language used in my consent statement could be easily understood, and translated well into the local language. The consent statement also states that the respondent may receive a monetary payout, but everyone would take home a small appreciation gift (powdered soap). For people working out of academic institutions, the "appropriate institutions" the 3ie document mentions are that university's IRB. Some countries also require approval from a local IRB for all research (I think Malawi and Uganda require local IRB for all research), and some require different IRBs for different kinds of research (Kenya requires a KEMRI IRB approval for medical research and any social science research that collects bio-specimens). Many countries (including Kenya) require a research permit issued from the national government (mine is from the Ministry for Higher Education, Science, and Technology). It would be difficult for one person to know all the regulations for all countries, so if you ever do research outside the US, you should consult an organization or researcher with lots of experience in that country. I am very grateful to the management team at Innovations for Poverty Action - Kenya for guidance. Jessica