TRUST Equitable Research partnerships
Achieving equity in international research is one of the pressing concerns of the 21st century. Many international groups and organisations are working on governance frameworks and standards to guide research activities after progressive globalisation. However, their efforts are disparate and lacking a guiding vision. In an interdisciplinary collaboration between multi-level ethics bodies, policy advisors/makers, civil society organisations, funding organisations, industry and academic scholars from a range of disciplines, this project combines long-standing, highly respected efforts to build international governance structures with new, exciting network opportunities in Europe, India, Sub-Saharan Africa, China and Russia.
The goal of the TRUST Project is to catalyze a global collaborative effort to improve adherence to high ethical standards in research around the world. Whilst clinical trials in low and middle income countries are likely to stay the most ethically sensitive area in global research ethics, a sensitivity which the TRUST consortium composition reflects, the TRUST project wants to overcome a restricted mentality which hampers global research ethics from taking the next step: agreeing there are generic risks of “ethics dumping”, developing a global code of conduct and providing tools that vulnerable populations can use themselves to avoid exploitation.
This three-year project brings together thirteen multi‐level ethics bodies, policy advisors, civil society organizations, funding organizations, industry and academic scholars from a range of disciplines. This includes UNESCO, the research arm of the French Health Ministry and two Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) which represent the San people of South Africa and sex workers in Nairobi, both of which have come under the spotlight due to the potential for exploitation in research.
TRUST’s clear and measurable objectives are to create an international network on global research ethics governance with relevant key actors to identify generic risks of exporting non‐ethical practices. The project aims to identify paradigmatic case studies of exporting non‐ethical practices and report on lessons learnt. It will develop a global code of conduct that can be used by the European Commission and funders world‐wide to foster ethical research and equitable partnerships as well as develop a tool that gives power to vulnerable populations under non‐ideal conditions (fair research contract).
The TRUST consortium developed a compliance and ethics follow‐up tool for conditions of high vulnerability and a strategy for fostering the convergence of global ethical research governance to improve adherence to high ethical standards in the longer term.
The deliverable and tools produced by the TRUST consortium should help all organisations doing research in low to middle-income countries comply the highest ethical standards. TRUST’s impact is thus to maintain high ethics in research no matter where the projects are conducted.