Ethical implications of diversity in disaster research


  • Matthew R. Hunt, PhD, PT
  • James A. Anderson, PhD
  • Renaud F. Boulanger, HBA



developing countries, disasters, ethics, IRBs, human subjects research


Enhancing the effectiveness, efficiency, and fairness of interventions is an increasing source of concern in the field of disaster response. As a result, the expansion of the disaster relief evidence base has been identified as a pressing need. There has been a corresponding increase in discussions of ethical standards and procedures for disaster research. In general, these discussions have focused on elucidating how traditional research ethics concerns can be operationalized in disaster settings. Less attention has been given to the exploration of the ethical implications of heterogeneity within the field of disaster research. Hence, while current efforts to discuss the ethics of disaster research in low-resource settings are very encouraging, it is clear that further initiatives will be crucial to promote the ethical conduct of disaster research. In this article, we explore how the ethical review of disaster research conducted in low-resource settings should account for this diversity. More specifically, we consider how the nature of the project (what?), sociopolitical and physical environment of research sites (where?), temporal proximity to the disaster event (when?), objectives motivating the research (why?), and identity of the stakeholders involved in the research process (who?) all relate to the ethics of disaster research.

Author Biographies

Matthew R. Hunt, PhD, PT

Assistant Professor, School of Physical and Occupational Therapy, McGill University; Affiliate Member, Biomedical Ethics Unit, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

James A. Anderson, PhD

Senior Research Associate, National Core for Neuroethics, UBC Hospital, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Renaud F. Boulanger, HBA

Research Assistant, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.


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How to Cite

Hunt, PhD, PT, M. R., J. A. Anderson, PhD, and R. F. Boulanger, HBA. “Ethical Implications of Diversity in Disaster Research”. American Journal of Disaster Medicine, vol. 7, no. 3, July 2012, pp. 211-2, doi:10.5055/ajdm.2012.0096.