Poster Spotlight: Incentive Parameters for International Human Subjects Research

by Avery Avrakotos, Education and Policy Coordinator

Preparations for the 2012 Advancing Ethical Research (AER) Conference are gearing up, and I, for one, am getting excited about the annual poster presentations. To channel my excitement, I reached out to past presenter Brandon Brown to see how his work has progressed since he shared his poster  at the 2011 AER Conference.

As you may recall, in 2011, Brandon and his colleagues developed a database of previously approved research incentives used in low-resource  settings. The database included different parameters that can be used for reference when new protocols are submitted to the institutional review board (IRB). 

Avery Avrakotos (AA): It’s been a year since you presented this abstract at the 2011 AER Conference.  How has your research since evolved?

Brandon Brown (BB): My research has evolved a great deal in the past 12 months. My attendance at the 2011 AER Conference was my first step into the realm of research ethics. Since attending the conference, I have used pilot data from my work to apply for and be accepted to the Fordham HIV Prevention Research Ethics Training Institute (RETI). I will utilize my time in this program to delve deeper into the ethical issues surrounding the use of incentives in clinical research in developing countries. My plan is to work under the guidance of Dr. Celia Fisher, and start with focus groups and key informant interviews in Peru this November. I am also working with my co-authors to submit the paper version of the poster presented at the conference to PLoS Medicine.

AA: What challenges have you faced in implementing this research?
BB: The biggest challenge in implementing the research highlighted at PRIM&R is securing funding and setting aside an adequate amount of time to conduct the work. With funding from the Fordham RETI program, I now have the capability to further develop my research during an intensive summer ethics institute and continue this work in the next two years. I made it a point to expand my knowledge of ethical issues further after PRIM&R, including implementing and teaching a course in public health ethics at the University of California, Irvine, and applying for an NIH grant in international research ethics training with the Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia in Peru.

AA: What is one principle that has guided you in your research?
BB: The main principle that has guided me in my research is respect, coupled with my hope to make a substantial contribution to the lives and experiences of clinical trial participants. As the principal investigator (PI) or co-PI on several clinical studies in Peru and Mexico, I have made note of ethical issues and worked to improve the knowledge and experience of study participants. Unfortunately, due to time constraints, I was not able to address the issues in a specific and significant way. The Fordham RETI program has provided me with this opportunity. In reviewing the academic literature, I feel that the use of incentives in developing countries is an under studied issue that deserves additional research and attention, as coercion is a significant issue that can affect participants in any study. My new study will fill this gap.

Thank you for sharing, Brandon! We hope that you will join us for the poster presentations at the 2012 AER Conference.