This week in the GSIF lecture, a case study was presented to us. If we were a research group studying pathogens in the water of Lesotho who need people to drive us around, what is the ethical way to conduct this research and if not why is this not an ethical test. In order to understand the problem, there were certain factors that needed to be addressed. First of all, the people transporting you in this scenario do not need to be paid. They can be if that is how you decide to conduct the research. There is also the caveat that the test is simple and cheap the only work is getting there which is why you need the townspeople.
The first step to solving this problem was understanding what we know. There is a disease causing pathogen that we are here to research. We are in a developing nation that is not as industrialized as the US. Many people are involved in the research and have to be transported. The townspeople are necessary to the research in order to show where the water sources are. After the research, it is possible to develop chemical additives to the water in order to make the water more safe to drink.
The next thing to address were the stakeholders. AKA, who gains from this research and how. Us as researchers are a stakeholder in that we want to gain information and help people. Community members are also stakeholders because they want to be able to drink the water and not become sick. Publishers who are looking to bring the research to a larger audience have a stake in this research as they want to show off what has been done. Grant funders have a similar motivation as they want to see that they have invested their money in the proper people. The government of Lesotho has a vested interest to make their people healthier and give them a longer life. Finally, healthcare providers in the region have interest in the project in order to better care for the people around them.
The three options that my group came up with were, pay the community members for their time and fuel, compensate with things other than money ie. food, or don’t pay them at all.
The first solution seemed the most ethical. It is based on a duty-based way of thinking. The pros to this is that it builds good relations, engages with the community, and builds a proper relationship between you and the people. The cons this this way of thinking are that it can cost a lot, fair pay between everyone could be difficult to ensure, and people might ask for money every time for anything.
Compensating with something other than money is the next option. This is virtue-based thinking. The pros of this option is that there is compensation but it would not be as costly as cash. This allows for the feeling of rewarding for their time which is extremely important. This also involves zero calculations since everyone will get the same things. The cons this is that to some, anything other than money could be an insult and people who are doing more work might get mad that they are getting the same thing as those doing less work.
The final option is to pay everyone nothing. This is consequence-based thinking. The pros to this way of thinking is that it saves money, maximizes the grants, and allows for those funds to be used for more important parts of the venture. The cons are that people will feel alienated, some people will get made, people might not help you at all, your reputation in the town could be ruined, and the data collected to be useless if people don’t help.
The first plan seems the most ethical and is what my group chose. With this comes a few things that need to be figured out in order to give proper payment. First of all, the average pay of any community member needs to be calculated from the market value. Secondly, mileage, wear and tear of car and determining rates based on what people currently pay needs to be figured out.
This is the most ethical plan due to the fact that the stakeholders are also benefitting from the research and not down the road. This will help relations with the people and allow for further research and good data.