Most countries require local ethics approvals and local research permits for socio-economic projects with survey components. Ethics approvals look into survey instruments and protocols to examine the level of protection given to participants and comment on the balance of the risks and benefits of the research. Local research permits assess the research questions, the design of the study, the potential impacts and publication plans.

Complying with these regulations is a mandatory step, but there are also advantages. We have a blog on the reasons why it’s well worth it to follow local procedures.  In a nutshell, going through these processes demonstrates respect and adherence to local procedures and regulations. Permits also very often open the door for local cooperation and create an environment where respondents feel confident, protected, and more likely to provide honest answers.

The requirements to obtain the approvals and permits vary by country. This post summarizes what we know about the process to secure ethics approvals and research permits in the countries where we work. Our goal is to make it easier for researchers in the region to find the information they need to carry out their work. We also share our tips and tricks to make the process more efficient.

Ethics approvals and research permits in Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Sierra Leone and Uganda – the check list:

(The OHRP database, managed by the US Office for Human Research Protections, lists several available IRB options in most countries.)

Tips and tricks for a smooth approval process:

  1. Account for the time needed to obtain approvals in your planning. It may take some time before you receive approvals, and you will need all the necessary approvals before starting any data collection activities with respondents, including pilots and listing. So submit your proposal/request on time and account for this in your work plan. Also remember that some IRBs review applications on scheduled dates only, so it pays off to be aware of the calendar.
  2. Consider investing in an expedited review, if this is an option available. It’s likely to be a bit more expensive, but it’s usually worth the shortened timeline for approvals (or comments).
  3. Take some time to review the requirements and make sure you follow the instructions. This will limit the back-and-forth after the committee reviews the first draft.
  4. Anticipate the requirements. For instance, if the COVID-19 situation is escalating, include your COVID protocols and explain the implications for consent forms (e.g., limiting use of paper copies and accepting verbal consent).
  5. Obtain a permit & approval in every country for a cross-country project. If a study takes place in more than one country, approvals and permits must be acquired separately in all of them.