Health Research Ethics

SAREN Ethics

Due to the burden of disease in Africa and the globalisation of research, there has been a significant increase in biomedical, social and behavioural research in Africa over the last decade. Along with this increased research has come the need for adequate local systems to provide oversight of all aspects of the research process, including the protection of human research participants.

The aim of this project was to develop a unique guidebook for African Research Ethics Committees (RECs) to further assist in strengthening research ethics capacity in Africa. The most important aspect of this project is that it is written almost exclusively by African scientists, clinicians and ethicists who are in a position to provide a unique African perspective on the protection of research participants in Africa.

Members of RECs throughout Africa and other suitably qualified and experienced academics were invited to apply to attend a meeting held at Stellenbosch University (South Africa) in August 2010. Attendees were selected according to previous research ethics experience and training as well as current active involvement in a REC. Project participants included scientists and clinicians, active researchers, REC members and administrators and trainees of previous training programmes funded by Fogarty International Centre and EDCTP.

The final result of this EDCTP-funded project is the book titled Research Ethics in Africa: A resource for research ethics committees, which was published in XX. The book has five parts:

  • Part I provides an overview of the principles of research ethics, a history of research ethics in Africa and a chapter detailing the MARC project (the Mapping of Research Ethics Committees throughout Africa) which maps the current status of RECs throughout Africa;
  • Part II focuses on the actual functioning of RECs and provides guidelines regarding protocol review, meeting procedure, safety monitoring and on-going monitoring of approved research;
  • Part III provides an African perspective on many different topics including informed consent, risk-benefit assessment, research vulnerability, use of biological specimens, genetic research, community engagement and traditional medicine research;
  • Part IV provides many useful resources including a chapter on available educational resources; and
  • Part V contains templates of ethics review form, informed consent and participants information form

It is available as a free e-book at or

Project overview:

Official title: Network of Southern Africa Research Ethics Committee (REC) Chairpersons and development of a review textbook for African REC members (SAREN – South African Research Ethics Network)
Project Coordinator: Prof. Mariana Kruger, Stellenbosch University, South Africa
Total budget: € 40,718
EDCTP budget: € 40,718