The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) aims to employ the highest standards in its research, including the ways it engages with partners and stakeholders. The institutional research ethics committee (IREC) provides oversight of this effort. It was established to set and monitor ethical standards, including those affecting how researchers engage with farmers and other people participating in research.
Informed consent is a key approach to ensure that ILRI research is not exploiting the people it works with and aims to serve.
Informed consent is essential, not only for legal and moral reasons but because the process provides a vehicle for dialogue between researchers and the people who keep livestock and are most affected by any interventions that may be developed. Informed consent processes can be particularly complex in cross-cultural contexts. In these settings, novel communication approaches may enhance participant understanding of project information, so their consent can be truly informed.
While piloting field tools in Morogoro, Tanzania, ILRI researchers tested three alternative tools to use as part of the informed consent process. The study aimed to determine which tool would be best to use in field work, judged by participant comprehension of information presented and engagement in the process. Tools used to explain the project for informed consent included a written form, a poster with cartoons (see below) and a poster with photographs.
While the number of participants involved in this pilot study were small, some of the results were significant. The poster containing cartoons was found to be the superior communication tool and was therefore used for ensuing field work. The results will be written into a report for publication and ILRI is planning to expand the study to include more participants and trials in different contexts.
Poster, in Swahili, explaining a project and intended to strengthen community engagement.
Written by Tarni Cooper, consultant researcher with ILRI’s Food Safety and Zoonoses Program.