Disaster Research Ethics (DRE)

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

Full 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

Link to the video on the HumEthNet YouTube Channel here.


Research in disasters can lead to improvements in disaster relief 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. Low-resource disaster research 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 research in low-resource disaster settings.  This research project aims to address this gap and respond to the following question: What are the processes and ethical principles that can reliably guide ethics review for research in low-resource disaster settings?  The research study includes two 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; and
  2. A qualitative, interview-based study to examine the experiences of members of Research Ethics Boards that are highly 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.

We will draw on this analysis, as well as examination of existing research ethics guidance, to develop a tailored normative framework. The framework will identify how relevant characteristics ought to be factored into the design of disaster research protocols and orient the process of ethics review. The final phase of the project will include knowledge transfer and exchange activities focused on two groups: disaster researchers and Research Ethics Boards that review disaster research.

Project summary (pdf version):


Would you be interested in participating?

We are seeking Research Ethics Board members with extensive experience reviewing protocols of disaster research in low resource settings who would be willing to participate in a 45-90 minute interview.

For more information and to volunteer please contact
Catherine Tansey, Researcher, McGill University

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