Bioethics Blogs

Meet the 2014-15 Pillars of PRIM&R Award Winner: Francis Kombe

We are pleased to introduce you to the 2014-15 Pillars of PRIM&R Award recipient, Francis Kazungu Kombe. Francis currently serves as a senior community facilitator in charge of training at the Kenya Medical Research Institute/Wellcome Trust Research Programme (KWTRP). Over the next year, he will be using his award for a project that explores strengthening fieldworkers’ capacity to address practical and ethical challenges in international research settings. Read on to learn more about Francis’ background and his project.

At the heart of my Pillars of PRIM&R project are fieldworkers—the front line staff who engage with prospective or actual study participants to collect data or seek consent. Fieldworkers play a vital role in maintaining a strong link between research institutions and the communities they serve.

A growing number of publications highlight the ethical dilemmas associated with fieldworkers’ involvement in studies, including the potential for them to exploit community trust in order to meet recruitment quotas, the challenges they face in maintaining privacy and confidentiality in the community, and the possibility of being exploited through unfair employment practices.1 Fieldworkers are often residents within the community in which they are employed, and their insider knowledge about the community’s socio-cultural, geographic, and leadership structures can help inform sensitivities around research implementation. However, fieldworkers can experience tension between professional expectations to adhere to ethical guidelines in the conduct of research, and the need to remain responsive and sensitive to ethical issues raised by members of their community. At worst, this tension can undermine data quality and, ultimately, the ethical standards of the research.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.