A key principle of ethical research is respect for persons. This principle should extend beyond informed consent to ensure that research participants are also informed of the results and implications of the study.
This helps to empower participants by ensuring that they are not treated solely as a means to an end, but as important contributors to the entire research process.1 Although there may be specific instances where sharing research results is inappropriate due to the potential harm it could cause participants, the default assumption should be that at least some results will be shared with participants as there are a number of potential benefits.
Benefits of Sharing Research Results with Participants
- Demonstrating the importance of the participant’s role in research
- Reducing the possibility that the participant feels exploited by the researcher
- Sharing information that may enhance disaster recovery or lead to interventions that may decrease the risk of future harm
- Increasing public awareness of the impact of research on knowledge
- Emphasizing participants’ contribution to the understanding of disasters
- Enhancing trust in the researchers and the research process1
Many funders of human subjects research now require that researchers consider how they will share results with key stakeholders. This means that during the study design phase, researchers must develop a plan to disseminate findings to individuals and communities involved in the study, as well as to scholars, practitioners, and policymakers who may use the results in varying ways. Identifying all the relevant stakeholders and the best way to communicate findings to each of these groups is thus an important ethical consideration when designing a study.
1.Fernandez CV, Kodish E, Weijer C. Informing study participants of research results: An ethical imperative. IRB: Ethics and Human Research. 2003;25(3). doi:10.2307/3564300