Case Study 01- Lesotho water sources

  • The facts of the situation:
    1. There is a disease-causing pathogen in the research area, and community members are already aware that it is there.
    2. We want to test the water with the goal of understanding the lifecycle and characteristics of the disease-causing pathogen.
    3. We would need help finding the different water sources and learning how and where the water is stored but paying community members is optional.
    4. There are 75 families and 500 people in the community of focus.
    5. We are sending 11 academic researchers that will be in Lesotho for 2 weeks.
    6. There is an expectation by researchers that the research could result in publications and potentially a treatment for the water.
  • The stakeholders
    1. 11 researchers
    2. Community members
      1. Those drinking the water
      2. Those that are helping us find the sources of water
    3. Lestho government
    4. Funders for the researchers
    5. The researcher’s academic institution
    6. Agency that would sponsor the invention and application of treatment
  • Motivations of the stakeholders
    1. 11 researchers
      1. The 11 researchers’ goal of the project is to better understand the disease-causing pathogen. Their motivation in doing the research is publication. We can also assume that they are interested in some sort of social impact because they chose this location and study to conduct their research.
    2. Community members
      1. Those drinking the water
        1. The community members that are consuming the water are motivated by the possibility of a clean source of water for their safety and quality of life. This implies that they hope or expect that the research will result in treatment of the water.
      2. Those that are helping the researchers find the sources of water
        1. These community members would also be motivated by the potential of clean sources of water. They could also be motivated by some sort of perk (i.e. free food) in exchange for their help. Moreover, they could be seeking compensation for their help for things like transport or their time.
      3. Lesotho government
        1. The Lesotho has a stake in the research because the disease-causing pathogen affects many of their water sources and citizens. Hopefully, their primary motivation of research is to protect the health and safety for their people. The research could also result in political capital/votes, and economic growth, and stronger relationships with foreign institutions.
      4. Funders for the researchers
        1. Organizations that fund the research/researchers are motivated by a return on investment. In this case, social ROI could be
      5. The researcher’s academic institution
        1. The academic institution’s motivations for research are return on investment and recognition for the research done.
      6. Agency that would sponsor the invention and application of treatment
        1. Motivations for this agency would be that researchers achieve their goal of characterizing the disease-causing pathogen so that they can create a viable treatment
  • Alternative solutions for this case study
    1. First, we decided on the ethical questions that are relevant to the current situation. The first and most important being, is it ethical to conduct this study? This is not a study on human subjects as the researchers are only collecting data from the water sources. Additionally, community members have something to gain from the research without ethical questions in the way. Similar to what the class decided, we could not think of any reasons the research was unethical (connect to the 3 basic principles of ethics). One question that we did consider was: Are the researchers exploiting people for their time and knowledge for their own gain in publication, notoriety, and potential impact? We attempt to answer this question in our alternative solutions, as the current situation is providing nothing to the community members that assist in research.
      1. One potential solution could be providing workers with compensation for their time spent away from their main source of income. The researchers could pay community members for their time lost in the form of an hourly or daily rate. Paying helpers a fair compensation follows the ethical principle of beneficence. Pros of this approach are that people may be more willing to participate if they know they can get something from us, and the researchers could get all the data more efficiently if they are paying people to help get the job done. Cons of the research are that more funding would be required to pay community members each day, and a fair payment structure would need to be developed for individuals helping us.
      2. Another approach could be not paying the individuals who are helping at all but compensating them in other ways like paying for their gas or helping them carry things. Researchers could even tag along with women or community members that are already going to the water sources each day. This approach allows community members to still have some incentive, but the researchers would not have to dish out as much money. With a smaller incentive, helpers may have less motivation to get the data done quickly and efficiently.
      3. The last potential approach is to partner with an NGO or community organization to let them make the decisions and payments. Researchers could still want to compensate the workers, but because the researchers know less about the community and its members, they could let someone else handle the task of choosing who is best to help find watering sources. In this case, the individuals could still get compensated, and the community/NGO could pick the best candidates for the job by having a knowledge of the community. On the other hand, the NGO or community would have to be responsible for paying the employees. While the research could benefit them in the end, they may not have the resources for payment, it is not fair for them to pay employees that they are not directly using.
  • Additional assistance- The team used our experiences in Sierra Leone and the Phillippines to make an informed decision.
  • In this case study, I would choose an approach similar to solution one. In two weeks, it is difficult to get organized, find data sources, and collect data without knowledge of the place you’re in. In order to get data most efficiently, I think that it’s important to pay individuals that help so that they are motivated to spend their time with the researchers. Additionally, if the same individuals are paid each day, they can build a rapport with the researchers. This approach worked really well for us in Sierra Leone. Our team had three translators that we paid a daily rate. By the end of our trip, we had gotten extremely close with them, and we could tell that they were really invested in our research. They didn’t even have to ask us questions for the mothers by the end- they knew the answers themselves. Working with an NGO was also very useful not just for our translators to see the weight behind what we were doing but also for the community members we were helping, so I would recommend that this study also partners with an organization on the ground. The researcher’s goal is to collect data on the data on the life and characteristics of this disease-causing pathogen, and this approach could easily get them that data in the most efficient way.


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