Informed consent and collaborative research: Perspectives from the developing world

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Developing World Bioethics








Developing world; Empirical ethics; Health systems; Informed consent; Research ethics


Introduction: Informed consent has been recognized as an important component of research protocols and procedures of disclosure and consent in collaborative research have been criticized, as they may not be in keeping with cultural norms of developing countries. This study, which is part of a larger project funded by the United States National Bioethics Advisory Commission, explores the opinions of developing country researchers regarding informed consent in collaborative research. Methods: A survey of developing country researchers, involved in human subject research, was conducted by distributing a questionnaire with 169 questions, which included questions relating to informed consent. In addition, six focus group discussions, eight in-depth interviews and 78 responses to open-ended questions in the questionnaire provided qualitative data. Results: 203 surveys were considered complete and were included in the analysis. Written consent was not used by nearly 40% of the researchers in their most recent studies. A large proportion of respondents recommended that human subject regulations should allow more flexibility in ways of documenting informed consent. 84% of researchers agreed that a mechanism to measure understanding should be incorporated in research studies as part of the process of informed consent. Discussion: This paper is an empirical step in highlighting the ethical issues concerning disclosure. Health researchers in developing countries are well aware of the importance of consent in health research, and equally value the significance of educating human subjects regarding study protocols and associated risks and benefits. However, respondents emphasize the need for modifying ethical regulations in collaborative research. © 2006 The Authors.