During our previous CINQ class, we were looked at a case study as a team that involved conducting research to test water in Lesotho. After reading through and understanding the case, we were tasked with coming up with a solution to take for the research project using an ethical decision making methodology, a seven step process to determine the best course of action in certain situations. Here is the ethical decision making methodology our team came up with.
Step 1: Determine the facts in the situation
In this case study, the main facts of the situation were:
- A team of 11 academic researchers are going to Lesotho for two weeks to test water sources in various communities.
- The tests are to identify disease causing pathogens in the water and understanding their life cycles and characteristics. These pathogens are only located in Lesotho and these findings could produce multiple publications and a development of chemical additives to make the infected water safe to drink in the future.
- The team will need help from community members in terms of finding the water sources that communities drink from and learning how the drinking water is stored. The team does not see the need to pay the community members assisting the project.
Step 2: Define the Stakeholders / Step 3: Assess the motivations of the Stakeholders
Stakeholders and their motivations for this situation include:
- The Research Team: This group can benefit from this research through publications of papers related to their findings, as well as accolades that can bring them professional opportunities down the line.
- The Community Members in Lesotho: This group has stake in the project because their drinking water sources are being used. They will be drinking this water that may contain these pathogens, and the findings from the research team could produce a solution to make the water safe in the future. In addition, community members who assist in the project could receive possible compensation and other perks.
- People who read the findings of the research: This group of people could take the information about the pathogen that was found during the two weeks in Lesotho, and use it to create a chemical additive or product that makes the water safe to drink. This could create a profit for those people and get them recognition in that field.
- The University that is overseeing the research: The University could gain recognition through this research project, primarily through the publications of papers that their names will be attached to. This could lead to more money and grants for the school.
- Government of Lesotho: The government of Lesotho could benefit from this research, as it could help them identify the reason for the pathogen-containing water and in the future could allow the government of Lesotho to provide their communities with safe drinking water.
Step 4: Formulate (at least three) alternative solutions
Solution 1: You can pay community members who assisted in the research project. The pros of this is that it is a nice thing to do and may also motivate the community members to be more helpful. The con of this option is that it would require the research project to use more money that they may need later on at some point, and it also creates a situation where it can become unclear on who should be paid for their help and how much.
Solution 2: You do not pay the community members who helped you. This situation would mean that you avoid any confusion about payments mentioned in the cons section of solution one, but no pay could make community members more hesitant to assist you, and make the members who do work with the project less motivated to assist to the best of their ability.
Solution 3: You reimburse the community members who assisted in the project only up to the amount of capital they gave up to help. This could include transportation costs and things of that nature. You also distribute the findings of your report back to the communities whose water sources were tested and make these findings available to the public back in America. This allows a company to take your information and create a solution to clean the water and makes the communities in Lesotho aware of the water issue, but can also create payment issues for the community members that helped, similar to what was mentioned in the cons section of solution 1.
Step 5: Seek additional assistance, as appropriate
Personal Experiences from the CINQ Team: The Ebola Team that traveled to Sierra Leone this summer conducted many interviews with community members and other individuals in Sierra Leone. The team provided reimbursements for things such as travel, but did not pay the individuals for taking part in the interviews. Although they made this clear to the participants that they would not be paid, they still received good cooperation and were able to conduct effective interviews.
Past Cases: In many cases of clinical trials, the teams conduct their research and leave without any real solution to what they were collecting data on, similar to what this project is doing. Although it is not the most ideal scenario, this sort of process is still used very widely.
Step 6: Select the best course of action/Step 7: (If applicable) What are the implications of your solution on the venture.
Our team decided that we would conduct solution 3, which is to reimburse the community members for any personal expenses they may have put into helping the project, then after research has been conducted distribute the findings to the Lesotho government, the communities at the center of the experiment, and make the findings available to anyone who is interested in America. We believe this is the best course of action, because from a community side of things, the people who are assisting in the project would not be losing any money in order to help, and the community will be made aware of the issues with their drinking water and can figure out how to deal with it. By distributing our findings with certain sectors of the Lesotho government, help can be given to the communities on the federal level to try and solve their drinking water problem. By making the findings of the research and data available to potential stakeholders, someone can take the knowledge gained from the research project to create a chemical additive that would make this water filled with disease causing pathogens safe to consume. Therefore, even though the research project ended after the distribution of the data collected, a new team can head up a mission to make the water in these communities safe to drink.