Abstract

Vulnerability of research populations is a fundamental area of interest and debate in bioethics. Based on mental health research in a humanitarian setting context, I explore vulnerability-related issues and developing enhanced protective practices. Motivated by experience from mental health research among forced migrants, and faced with a lack of guidance in the sharing of ethical lessons, I explore the concept of post-research ethics audit as a mechanism for reflection that researchers working with vulnerable populations can use. Presently, a coherent post-research strategy to critically examine the quality of ethical frameworks, debrief researcher experience and explore ethical challenges in research implementation is unavailable. The more established clinical audit process can be a model for the post-research ethics audit due to conceptual similarities in improving current practices by comparing the ideal versus the real scenario and measuring the effect of implementing changes. The proposed strategy presents a feasible way of identifying discrepancies between existing guidance and actual on-field implementation of research. Such a concept, if supported by empirical evidence based on its applicability, adaptability and feasibility, can become a platform to identify participant community needs, perceive community-specific ethical challenges, identify gaps in ethical oversight, and examine researcher integrity and potential misconduct. However, such activity needs to be researcher- and ethics committee-friendly, easily adaptable and implementable within existing ethical oversight frameworks, to enhance researcher-driven ethical practices and promote participant involvement.

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