The Advancing Research Ethics training in Southern Africa (ARESA) program will promote responsible research in southern Africa by offering a postgraduate Diploma/Masters level educational program to health care and other professionals in research ethics and by developing a national network for Research Ethics Committee (REC) members. The Bioethics Unit at the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa and the Centre for Bioethics, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, USA will strengthen and expand local and regional African capacity using the foundation in research ethics built by the IRENSA program by developing a research ethics curriculum incorporating a broad range of ethical issues across the health research spectrum, including ethics of qualitative research, mental health research, genetic research with indigenous populations, and pediatric research. The curriculum will devote special attention to ethical issues related to research design and methodology in response to the local needs of local research ethics committees, and reflect health conditions faced by vulnerable populations in Southern Africa by emphasizing the ethical challenges raised by research on infectious diseases (HIV and TB) and emerging chronic diseases. Ten Southern African trainees per year will be selected to participate in 3 two-week intensive and interactive research ethics modules at the University of Stellenbosch Bioethics Unit, be exposed to research ethics committee deliberations, and complete a practicum assignment. To enhance career development, trainees will be individually mentored by ARESA faculty to build capacity in research methodology, manuscript preparation and grant-writing, and to develop a package of research training materials to be used at their home institutions. To expand research ethics capacity nationally, we will publish a trainee-driven South African Research Ethics Committee (SAREC) newsletter online, organize an annual ARESA conference in Cape Town, and initiate the formation of an association of South African research ethics committees.
With its high infectious disease burden and vast populations of treatment naove patients, Southern Africa is a highly sought after venue for biomedical and other research involving human participants. However, local capacity in the ethical conduct and regulation of research in the region remains incomplete and under-developed. This program will contribute to public health by enhancing the responsible conduct of research and by helping to maintain trust between research institutions, researchers and communities.
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