Researchers can use this information to support their preparations for conducting international research. We encourage researchers to provide TC IRB reviewers with detailed and thorough information on local customs and practices at a given international research site.
International research typically includes (i) two or more countries, often with the purpose of comparing responses between them, or (ii) research conducted in a country different from the researcher’s country of origin. Research of this nature might be done to devise strategies for diverse cultures, evaluate the cultural appropriateness of measures or procedures, or suggest local adjustments to a global strategy.
International research is essential to understanding diverse perspectives and experiences. However, research sponsored by developed-world entities (both public and private) and conducted in the developing world is enmeshed with complex ethical issues. In research settings, people are asked to assume risk and inconvenience in the interest of advancing knowledge designed to benefit individuals and societies.
Codes of research ethics, regulations, laws, policies, and norms guiding researchers aim to minimize the possibility of exploitation of individuals by carefully protecting participant rights and welfare. Widely recognized provisions to protect research participants include:
TC IRB has created a Data Security Plan for all researchers (MyTC/Mentor IRB/Documentation/Data Security Plan). In most cases, the Data Security Plan serves as a foundational basis for research.
When most researchers think of international research, they consider the excitement of travel and adventure. International research is also challenging, as it requires researchers to adapt to new ways of life, a change in routine, limited communication with support networks, and a balance of personal beliefs with new customs. Researchers should be properly prepared and trained for the rigors of international research before entering the study site. For example, researchers should:
For information on travel preparedness and advisory updates, please visit TC and Columbia University's websites. Please also make sure to register your travel with the appropriate offices; for more information please review our International Travel Checklist.
When conducting research in partnership with another institution, researchers should establish a data-sharing agreement prior to data collection. A data-sharing agreement is a formal agreement that clearly defines what data is being shared, and how the data will be used according to specific terms and conditions as outlined in the agreement. Before conducting any research or sharing data, both parties should discuss anticipated data-sharing, data-use, and data-security issues to document in the agreement. A data-sharing agreement template can be found in MyTC/Mentor IRB/Documentation.
Communications between researchers should only be conducted over TC email accounts and secure Virtual Private Networks (VPNs). When discussing participants, identifying information cannot be sent over electronic communications. However, when working across time zones, it may be difficult to set up a time to speak on the phone, especially in an emergency. In these cases, researchers should rely on using pseudonyms or unique codes. Never share the name of a participant or their information in an email or text message, as these communications are not strictly confidential.
For more information, visit the International Compilation of Human Research Standards.
The OHRP has published international research standards for Asia and the Pacific Region. Additionally, there are seven United Nations treaty bodies that govern international human rights. Please consult these bodies as relevant to your research site:
There are several organizations intended for the protection and welfare of people. Researchers should familiarize themselves with guidelines posted by committees relevant to their research: