One of the activities I hope to pursue while in Uganda is to conduct a pilot research project to assess the impact of safe water, sanitation, and hygiene education initiatives of Busoga Trust America in the Masindi District. It will be a “pilot” since I this is my first time to Africa and I am unfamiliar with the culture and language, I need to test my survey questions before using them more widely, I am only bringing one pharmacy student with me, and I will only have a limited time in Masindi to gather data. This summer’s learning experience will be used to improve the project and hopefully gain access to grant funding to support my future endeavors on a larger scale. The first barrier to gathering data this summer is the need to have approval from the Uganda government to be able to administer the surveys to the people of 2 communities in Masindi. For those unaccustomed to academia and formal research, in order to do studies where you will share the results by publishing it scientific literature you must get institutional review board (IRB) approval, even if you are just asking people questions using a survey. The process in the USA is governed by the Dept of Health and Human Services (HHS) who authorizes local IRB’s (such as those at universities and hospitals) to approve or withhold approval for research. The primary purpose of an IRB is to protect the rights of the people in the study. This makes perfect sense when you are thinking about a study where the research participants are being given drugs to find out it the new treatment will cure a disease, but even just being asked questions, as in answering a survey, could be potentially harmful if the person isn’t assured that their privacy will not be violated or if the questions could cause undo stress. Think about asking people about diseases like AIDS, cancer, and psychiatric illnesses. These type of studies are done all the time but what the IRB wants to be sure of is that the participants will be fully aware of how the information is to be used and how they will be protected from having their personal information revealed. And if the questions might cause stress, the participant should know about this ahead of time and make their own decision about whether or not to take part in the study. So, my research needs to be vetted through the appropriate IRB process and this is a little more complicated because I want to do the study in a foreign country. My research approval needs to be obtained through the processes of Uganda and it turns out that they have a 2 steps to fulfill. First I need to get approval through an institutional IRB and since I’m working with Makerere University College of Health Sciences, I will send my proposal and application there. But after that is approved, I need to submit my research to the Uganda National Council for Science and Technology (UNCST). Not only will both of these steps take time, but also a lot of money- $500 for Makerere Faculty of Medicine Research, $300 to UNCST! Since I now only have 41 days before I leave the US on a flight to Africa (on June 4), and only 56 days until I start my time in Uganda (June 19) [remember I will be in Tanzania for the first 2 weeks of my trip], there isn’t much time for me to get all of this done. Thus, I think that explains my delinquency in keeping up this blog. With that said, I will go back to working on my research approval.
Stay tuned for my “Day in the Life…” experiment where I will record my activities once an hour all day and then create a VoiceThread and embed it in this blog to test out this technology before my Africa trip. It might happen this week….