Background paper

Conducting research in the context of global health emergencies: identifying key ethical and governance issues

Written by Dr Agomoni Ganguli Mitra, Research Associate (Liminal Spaces Project) and Teaching Fellow, Mason Institute, School of Law, University of Edinburgh and Dr Nayha Sethi, Research Fellow (Liminal Spaces Project) and Deputy Director, Mason Institute, School of Law, University of Edinburgh


This background paper provides an overview of key ethical and governance challenges associated with conducting research and innovation in the context of global health emergencies (GHEs).

In addition to identifying key pre-existing contributions, it identifies gaps and areas of potential further interest. Establishing and maintaining the proper distinctions and priorities between response and research raise particularly challenging questions.

Other key issues identified include:

  • developing the distinct ethics and governance needs associated with specific kinds of emergencies; and
  • accommodating the concerns of, and reconciling tensions between the (at times conflicting) roles and obligations of different actors.

These considerations, among others, will affect all aspects of research ethics, including:

  • research funding;
  • research design;
  • priority setting;
  • risk assessment;
  • consent; and
  • ethics review.

The concerns highlighted in this paper point to the need for further ethical scrutiny (at local and global levels), as well as the need to include all relevant stakeholders in ethics and governance endeavours.

Download the full paper

Previous work

Contact us

Nuffield Council on Bioethics
28 Bedford Square

+44 (0)20 7681 9619

Get regular e-news


Explore by topic