7 March 2018

Ethiopia: Focus On Research Ethics

Ethics has been living in and between societies around the globe and served as a guide line in every sociocultural and religious aspects of human life. Generations have been built with certain type of ethics that reasonably states what is right or wrong, what is good or bad, what is acceptable or unacceptable for the well being of individuals and their societies.

Fantahun Mengistu and Abebe Kirub on their Research Ethics Guide indicate that even though the existential of ethics begin from childhood, the moral development goes throughout the entire life of an individual. There are general principles of ethics that are acceptable by all members of a society. However, the interpretation, implementation and evaluation of these principles could depend on the personal values and life experiences of every individual, according to them.

On the other hand, ethics is different from law. A person's action could be legal but unethical or the opposite, which means one may do something ethical but unlawful. Laws are tools that are used to implement the moral values in every level which are widely accepted. Meanwhile, principles of ethics are guidelines, which a certain institute prepares them in order to enable its employees and administrators or management do their jobs based on its major values.

Every socioeconomic, political and scientific activity, which is believed to benefit not only human beings but also all creatures on the planet requires to be undertaken based on certain principles of ethics. The above-mentioned writers strongly believe that, moral values and principles are the only ways to protect the name and dignity of science and technology in this world of competition where many are rushing for fortune and fame.

Scientific researches are meant to bring solutions for natural and man-made problems when they are conducted with passion, strong ethics and knowledge.

According to the Ministry of Science and Technology (MoST), 56 problem solving research projects are under implementation beginning from 2015 and the progress of 16 out of which are under evaluation.

Researchers are given opportunities by the MoST to go through every issue that concerns every society member. And research has to go through ethics.

Recently, the Minister of MoST Dr. Engineer Getahun Mekuria said that the science and research projects are expected to support peoples' lives. As a result, they must be implemented within the given period of time and budget. This could also be fulfilling one of the research ethics.

The Ministry is working on improving research and innovation, benefiting women and youth, increasing accessibility and competitiveness, enhancing technological transformation and developing local knowledge, upgrading the level of awareness between the public about science and research and improving the link between research institutes of universities and industries.

One of its major focus areas is promoting research ethics. MoST attaches the highest priority to maintaining high standards of integrity, responsibility, and accountability in all research conducted in Ethiopia.

According to the national research ethics review guideline, the Ministry obligates that research with human subjects should be carried out only or strictly supervised by, suitably qualified and experienced investigators and in accordance with a protocol that clearly states the aim of the research, the reasons for proposing that involves human subjects, the nature and degree of any known risks to the subjects, the sources from which it is proposed to recruit subjects, and the means proposed for ensuring that subjects' consent will be adequately informed and voluntary. The protocol should be scientifically and ethically appraised by one or more suitably constituted review bodies, independent of the investigators.

The guideline also makes it clear that it has an objective to safeguard the rights, values, and welfare of research participants through respecting the participants' autonomy, protecting the participants from harm related to research, and ensuring that individual/community benefits and fairness are maintained.

While enabling conditions are provided for research and researchers, there are some unethical practices on the researchers such as, fabricating data, plagiarism, false conclusions that would lead to misinformation.

Even though, universities are currently encouraging research projects to reach the public, many researches are still left on shelves. This could be proved by the number of research projects the Ministry has practically on implementation. Since 2015, The MoST is supporting 56 research projects. This could be from the fact that relevant researches are not being conducted with the expected outcome.

Therefore, this issue is not supposed to be left only for MoST. Universities should take high responsibility on producing educated human resource that is capable of conducting researches based on the right ethics. What we are talking about is a an issue that would change the lives of many and if by any means information is cooked by a researcher the loss is unbearable.


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