Disaster Research Ethics (DRE)

Link to the video on the HumEthNet YouTube Channel here.


Research in disasters can lead to improvements in humanitarian relief efforts and better understanding of how disasters impact populations. Recent increased emphasis on disaster research has spurred expanded discussion regarding the ethical implications of this field of inquiry. Disaster research, especially in low resources settings, is associated with a range of distinctive ethical features including heightened vulnerability, insecurity and instability, need for rapid response, and challenges to distinguish practice from research, amongst others. However, there remains uncertainty regarding what ethical guidance can best orient disaster, and how ethical issues are experienced by disaster researchers and understood by research ethics committee members. This research project aims to address these gaps.

The research study included three primary lines of inquiry:

  1. A systematic assessment of the disaster research literature with the goal of identifying characteristics of disaster research in low-resource settings and their ethical implications;
  2. Interviews with members of Research Ethics Committees that are experienced in reviewing disaster research protocols in order to better understand ethical issues arising in disaster research and its review, opportunities and obstacles to address these issues, and implications for ethics review of disaster research;
  3. Interviews with disaster researchers to better understand how they perceive and experience ethical challenges in conducting their research, as well as ethics guidance related to this domain of research.

This research was funded by grants from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Fonds de Recherche du Québec – Santé.

Project summary (PDF version):





PRESENTATION slides available for download:

Screen Shot 2017-04-24 at 7.31.27 PMWADEM 2017: Download workshop slides.

Project lead: Matthew Hunt, Assistant Professor, School of Physical & Occupational Therapy, McGill University, matthew.hunt@mcgill.ca.

DRE research project citation:

Hunt, Matthew,  Lisa Schwartz, Lisa Eckenwiler, James Anderson, Anant Bhan, Renaud Boulanger, John Pringle, Catherine Tansey, Anushree Dave. “Investigation of the ethics of disaster research in low & middle income countries (LMICs).” CIHR



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