Research, innovation, and progress in the life sciences are increasingly contingent on access to large quantities of data. This is one of the key premises behind the “open science” movement and the global calls for fostering the sharing of personal data, datasets, and research results. This paper reports on the outcomes of discussions by the panel “Open science, data sharing and solidarity: who benefits?” held at the 2021 Biennial conference of the International Society for the History, Philosophy, and Social Studies (...) of Biology, and hosted by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. (shrink)
Military metaphors are pervasive in biomedicine, including HIV research. Rooted in the mind set that regards pathogens as enemies to be defeated, terms such as “shock and kill” have become widely accepted idioms within HIV cure research. Such language and symbolism must be critically examined as they may be especially problematic when used to express scientific ideas within emerging health-related fields. In this article, philosophical analysis and an interdisciplinary literature review utilizing key texts from sociology, anthropology, history, and Chinese and (...) African studies were conducted to investigate the current proliferation of military metaphors. We found the use of these metaphors to be ironic, unfortunate, and unnecessary. To overcome military metaphors we propose to give them less aggressive meanings, and/or replace them with more peaceful metaphors. Building on previous authors' work, we argue for the increased use of “journey” metaphors as meaningful, cross-culturally app... (shrink)
The introduction of genomics and biobanking methodologies to the African research context has also introduced novel ways of doing science, based on values of sharing and reuse of data and samples. This shift raises ethical challenges that need to be considered when research is reviewed by ethics committees, relating for instance to broad consent, the feedback of individual genetic findings, and regulation of secondary sample access and use. Yet existing ethics guidelines and regulations in Africa do not successfully regulate research (...) based on sharing, causing confusion about what is allowed, where and when. In order to understand better the ethics regulatory landscape around genomic research and biobanking, we conducted a comprehensive analysis of existing ethics guidelines, policies and other similar sources. We sourced 30 ethics regulatory documents from 22 African countries. We used software that assists with qualitative data analysis to conduct a thematic analysis of these documents. Surprisingly considering how contentious broad consent is in Africa, we found that most countries allow the use of this consent model, with its use banned in only three of the countries we investigated. In a likely response to fears about exploitation, the export of samples outside of the continent is strictly regulated, sometimes in conjunction with regulations around international collaboration. We also found that whilst an essential and critical component of ensuring ethical best practice in genomics research relates to the governance framework that accompanies sample and data sharing, this was most sparingly covered in the guidelines. There is a need for ethics guidelines in African countries to be adapted to the changing science policy landscape, which increasingly supports principles of openness, storage, sharing and secondary use. Current guidelines are not pertinent to the ethical challenges that such a new orientation raises, and therefore fail to provide accurate guidance to ethics committees and researchers. (shrink)
Population-level biomedical research offers new opportunities to improve population health, but also raises new challenges to traditional systems of research governance and ethical oversight. Partly in response to these challenges, various models of public involvement in research are being introduced. Yet, the ways in which public involvement should meet governance challenges are not well understood. We conducted a qualitative study with 36 experts and stakeholders using the World Café method to identify key governance challenges and explore how public involvement can (...) meet these challenges. This brief report discusses four cross-cutting themes from the study: the need to move beyond individual consent; issues in benefit and data sharing; the challenge of delineating and understanding publics; and the goal of clarifying justifications for public involvement. The report aims to provide a starting point for making sense of the relationship between public involvement and the governance of population-level biomedical research, showing connections, potential solutions and issues arising at their intersection. We suggest that, in population-level biomedical research, there is a pressing need for a shift away from conventional governance frameworks focused on the individual and towards a focus on collectives, as well as to foreground ethical issues around social justice and develop ways to address cultural diversity, value pluralism and competing stakeholder interests. There are many unresolved questions around how this shift could be realised, but these unresolved questions should form the basis for developing justificatory accounts and frameworks for suitable collective models of public involvement in population-level biomedical research governance. (shrink)
Biological sample and data transfer within and out of Africa is steeped in controversy With the H3Africa project now aiming to establish biobanks in Africa, it is essential that there are ethical and legal governance structures in place to oversee the operation of these biobanks. Such governance is essential to ensuring that donors are protected, that cultural perspectives are respected and that researchers have a ready availability of ethically sourced biological samples.
Genomic biobanking research is undergoing exponential growth in Africa raising a host of legal, ethical and social issues. Given the scientific complexity associated with genomics, there is a growing recognition globally of the importance of science translation and community engagement for this type of research, as it creates the potential to build relationships, increase trust, improve consent processes and empower local communities. Despite this level of recognition, there is a lack of empirical evidence of the practise and processes for effective (...) CE in genomic biobanking in Africa. To begin to address this vacuum, 17 in-depth face to face interviews were conducted with South African experts in genomic biobanking research and CE to provide insight into the process, benefits and challenges of CE in South Africa. Emerging themes were analysed using a contextualised thematic approach. Several themes emerged concerning the conduct of CE in genomic biobanking research in Africa. Although the literature tends to focus on the local community in CE, respondents in this study described three different layers of stakeholder engagement: community level, peer level and high level. Community level engagement includes potential participants, community advisory boards and field workers; peer level engagement includes researchers, biobankers and scientists, while high level engagement includes government officials, funders and policy makers. Although education of each stakeholder layer is important, education of the community layer can be most challenging, due to the complexity of the research and educational levels of stakeholders in this layer. CE is time-consuming and often requires an interdisciplinary research team approach. However careful planning of the engagement strategy, including an understanding of the differing layers of stakeholder engagement, and the specific educational needs at each layer, can help in the development of a relationship based on trust between the research team and various stakeholder groups. Since the community layer often comprises vulnerable populations in low and middle income countries, co-development of innovative educational tools on genomic biobanking is essential. CE is clearly a component of a broader process best described as stakeholder engagement. (shrink)
South Africa has made great progress in the development of HIV/AIDS testing, treatment and prevention campaigns. Yet, it is clear that prevention and treatment campaigns alone are not enough to bring this epidemic under control.
BackgroundThe ethical concerns associated with HIV prevention and treatment research have been widely explored in South Africa over the past 3 decades. However, HIV cure research is relatively new to the region and significant ethical and social challenges are anticipated. There has been no published empirical enquiry in Africa into key informant perspectives on HIV cure research. Consequently, this study was conducted to gain preliminary data from South African HIV clinicians, researchers and activists.MethodsIn-depth interviews were conducted on a purposive sample (...) of fourteen key informants in South Africa. Audiotaped interviews were transcribed verbatim with concurrent thematic analysis. The perspectives of HIV clinicians, researchers and activists were captured. Analyst triangulation occurred as the data were analysed by three authors independently.ResultsThe rapid evolution of HIV cure research agendas was prominent with participants expressing some concern that the global North was driving the cure agenda. Participants described a symbiotic relationship between cure, treatment and prevention research necessitating collaboration. Assessing and managing knowledge and expectations around HIV cure research emerged as a central theme related to challenges to constructing ‘cure’ - how patients understand the idea of cure is important in explaining the complexity of cure research especially in the South African context where understanding of science is often challenging. Managing expectations and avoiding curative misconception will have implications for consent processes. Unique strategies in cure research could include treatment interruption, which has the potential to create therapeutic and ethical conflict and will be perceived as a significant risk. Ethical challenges in cure research will impact on informed consent and community engagement.ConclusionsIt was encouraging to note the desire for synergy amongst researchers and clinicians working in the fields of prevention, treatment and cure. Translation of complex HIV cure science into lay language is critical. Moving forward, RECs must be adequately constituted with scientific expertise and community representation when reviewing cure protocols. It is hoped that knowledge and resource sharing in the context of collaboration between research scientists working in cure and those working in treatment and prevention will accelerate progress towards cure. (shrink)
Consent processes for clinical trials involving HIV prevention research have generated considerable debate globally over the past three decades. HIV cure/eradication research is scientifically more complex and consequently, consent processes for clinical trials in this field are likely to pose a significant challenge. Given that research efforts are now moving toward HIV eradication, stakeholder engagement to inform appropriate ethics oversight of such research is timely. This study sought to establish the perspectives of a wide range of stakeholders in HIV treatment (...) and research to inform consent processes for cure research. In total, 68 South African stakeholders participated in two qualitative research modalities. In-depth interviews were conducted with a purposive sample of 42 individuals - audiotaped with consent. Twenty-six stakeholders participated in three focus group discussions. Thematic analysis of transcribed IDIs and FGDs was conducted. The majority of respondents indicated that there could be unique challenges in HIV cure research requiring special attention. In particular, given the complexity of cure science, translation of concepts into lay language would be critical for potential participants to adequately appreciate risks and benefits in early phase research with experimental interventions. Furthermore, to aid understanding of risks and benefits against a background of desperation for a cure, specially trained facilitators would be required to assist with a psychological assessment prior to consent to avoid curative misconceptions. Long-term participant engagement to assess durability of a cure would mean that the consent process would be prolonged, necessitating annual re-consent. Building trust to maintain such long-term relationships would be critical to retain study participants. Unique consent requirements for cure research in South Africa would include significant efforts to maximise understanding of trial procedures, risks and the need for long-term follow-up. However, the psychological dimension of cure must not be underestimated. Beyond an understanding of cure science, the emotional impact of HIV cure advances the discourse from cure to healing. Consequently, the consent process for cure research would need to be enhanced to include psychological support and counselling. This has several important implications for research ethics review requirements for consent in HIV cure research. (shrink)
In the past decade, there has been an increase in genomic research and biobanking activities in Africa. Research initiatives such as the Human Heredity and Health in Africa Consortium are contributing to the development of scientific capacity and infrastructure to support these studies on the continent. Despite this growth, genomic research and biobanking have raised important ethical challenges for key research stakeholders, including members of research ethics committees. One of these is the limited ethical and regulatory frameworks to guide the (...) review and conduct of genomic studies, particularly in Africa. This paper is a reflection on a series of consultative activities with research ethics committees in Africa which informed the development of an ethics and governance framework for best practices in genomic research and biobanking in Africa. The paper highlights the engagement process and the lessoned learned. (shrink)
The use of medical stimulants to sustain attention, augment memory and enhance intellectual capacity is increasing in society. The use of Methylphenidate for cognitive enhancement is a subject that has received much attention in the literature and academic circles in recent times globally. Medical doctors and medical students appear to be equally involved in the off-label use of Methylphenidate. This presents a potential harm to society and the individual as the long-term side effect profile of this medication is unknown.
Genomic and biobank research has undergone exponential growth in Africa. Traditionally this resulted in exploitative research practices in the form of so-called ‘parachute research’ with little or no consideration for capacity building. However there has been a recent growth of research and consortia where capacity building and equitable research have been a key objective of the research, and attention is now focused on the governance of this research. The importance of solidarity in genomic biobank research in high income countries is (...) well established and such an ethos reflects the communal based worldviews prevalent in many African communities. However, if the governance of the research is to foster equitable research practices, there must be some reciprocal benefit. This chapter will explore the impact that reciprocity will have on solidarity and how this may manifest in a governance framework in Africa. Particular focus will be given to capacity building and benefit sharing to enable the research to develop for the benefit of the local population, in a manner that promotes trust and fairness. This chapter will conclude with some recommendations on how to ensure reciprocity is enshrined in a governance framework for genomic biobank research in Africa. (shrink)