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Ethical Guidelines for Post-Disaster Research

Beavan, S. (2023) Ethical Guidelines for Post-Disaster Research. Resilience to Nature's Challenges National Science Challenge Information Sheet. March, 2023.


This is guidance for researchers, scientists, and engineers who may be required to go into disaster impacted areas to collect data, especially those interacting directly with affected communities and individuals, and response agencies and volunteers.

As a general rule, data gathering should be deferred during response. Researchers should refrain from entering or engaging with impacted communities, unless formally required to do so in support of the response. For those required to enter an impacted area to gather data as part of the emergency response, the purpose of this guidance is to remind researchers of the need to consider and understand the ethical dimensions of their research activity and how to manage ethical risk. Researchers supporting the response should take measures to minimise pressure on scarce resources, demands on local officials, and stress among locals as a result of their research activities.

This guidance also aims to serve as a reminder of the right to be informed about research and to give or withhold consent when interacting with researchers. This fundamental human right applies to everyone involved in the response, including community members and volunteers as well as those working in more ‘official’ response agencies.

The guidelines were first developed in response to the 2016 Kaikōura earthquake and widely distributed within days of the earthquake across central and local government agencies, as well as in the impacted areas. The guidelines have been peer-reviewed and endorsed by a group of New Zealand social scientists with experience researching after disasters, and endorsed by the Chair of the University of Canterbury Human Research Ethics Committee.

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