“Completing the picture: what can research participants tell us about applied research ethics?”

The Department of Health Promotion and Community Health (HPCH) of the Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS) at the American University of Beirut (AUB) funded by AUB University Research Board (URB) and the Lebanese National Council for Scientific Research (LNCSR) organized a closed meeting entitled “Completing the picture: what can research participants tell us about applied resear​ch ethics?"

The meeting, held on April 18, 2017 in AUB College Hall, brought together more than 30 distinguished researchers and ethics committee representatives from different universities across Lebanon, including AUB, the Lebanese American University, Beirut Arab University, Lebanese International University, Global University, American University for Science and Technology, Jinan University and Université Saint-Joseph to discuss applied research ethics.

In his opening speech, FHS Dean Iman Nuwayhid welcomed the attendees and stressed the importance of research ethics in all types of studies which involve human subjects across disciplines. "With more universities doing more research, it becomes more critical than ever to understand how the community thinks and reacts".

In his turn, Dr. Fuad Ziyadeh, Chairperson of the Department of Internal Medicine and the Institutional Review Board (IRB) at AUB, highlighted the important role of IRB in reviewing and approving research involving human subjects who are recruited to participate in research activities.

Following the welcome notes, Dr. Jihad Makhoul, Professor at the HPCH department, presented an overview of the situation of research ethics in the Arab region from her research and the relevant literature as a background to the results. A recent study of hers, according to Dr. Makhoul indicated that there are reported deficiencies in researchers' ethics training and that ethical research is challenging for them to conduct. “The time is right for such discussions" she said, “because the field of research ethics is developing, and there is a huge number of issues that are still unexplored."

Dr. Rima Nakkash then presented the results of the current study with the participants in biomedical research and the floor was then open for discussion guided by a few questions.

The discussion indicated that the presentation was well-received and that the participants were eager to discuss further and learn more about the practicalities of research ethics in this context. 

Addressing the conduct and guidelines in research on human subjects from the perspective of the participants, Dr. Rima Nakkash, Associate Professor in the HPCH department, revealed the findings of from in-depth interviews with 24 individuals who have participated in such research. The presentation of the findings opened the floor for a discussion on how to improve the conduct of research, particularly related to consenting and reducing therapeutic misconceptions as well as implications for further research.

As research with human subjects is globally increasing and particularly in the Region, concerns about ethical research conduct and guidelines, especially in biomedical research, have been rising. Considering clinical and health research from the perspectives of participants is a key step not only to increase recruitment and retention in research, but also to improve responsible research conduct. This meeting, as described by a number of participants, constituted an important avenue for researchers and ethics committees to start a much needed open discussion about research involving human subjects and the gaps in implementation.