Independent Review Board, Institutional Review Board (IRB), Independent Ethics Committee (IEC), Ethical Review Board (ERB), or Research Ethics Board (REB) are all similar and are designed to ensure research methods are ethical. They tend to exist in biomedical and behavioural research areas when the research involves humans.
Research involving humans. That sounds awfully similar to many of the innovation pilot projects which we implement in the humanitarian space. There are countless projects using technology which seeks to improve the humanitarian work and impact of organisations and of the vulnerable people we work with. And yet, I not aware of review boards or ethics committees.
Recently, I’ve been writing about my exploration of Data Trusts and how they may help with data sharing, solve a challenge for DIDs, and improve our data governance. However, to move from idea to pilot or test, perhaps we should be creating a Humanitarian Ethics Committee (HEC) to oversee or interrogate the testing process as we are dealing with people, vulnerable people, their data, and therefore could have negative impact on them.
Perhaps a Humanitarian Ethics Committee (HEC) or an ICT4D Ethical Review Board (IERB) could help bring extra rigour to our thinking and help us think through, wrestle with ethical dilemmas in our desire to improve our work. As a humanitarian or even as a technology community we don’t have a space for this type of discussion. Sometimes different organisations create their own internal version, but it is not common and certainly nothing exists at an inter-agency level.
The choice is ours.