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Ethics in Biology, Engineering and Medicine: An International Journal
SJR: 0.123

ISSN Print: 2151-805X
ISSN Online: 2151-8068

Ethics in Biology, Engineering and Medicine: An International Journal

DOI: 10.1615/EthicsBiologyEngMed.v1.i4.80
pages 319-333

Community Engagement in Observational Human Exposure Studies

Peter P. Egeghy
National Exposure Research Laboratory, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, USA
Davyda M. Hammond
National Exposure Research Laboratory, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, USA
Roy C. Fortmann
National Exposure Research Laboratory, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, USA

ABSTRACT

Although observational human exposure studies do not deliberately expose participants to chemicals or environmental conditions, merely involving people as research participants and conducting research inside homes raises ethical issues. Community engagement offers a promising strategy for managing these ethical concerns by ensuring that the community has a voice in the research process. Community engagement ensures that the research aims, study design, and dissemination activities are relevant to the concerns of the community. One approach is to include qualified community members on the research staff as consultants for protocol development and contributors to the data collection and interpretation processes. A second approach is to seek community consultation, creating dialogue to incorporate the experiential knowledge of the residents. Community advisory boards can serve as a liaison between participants and researchers. Lastly, use of community-based participatory research methodologies actively involves the community in each step of the research process, but requires greater willingness to share decision making. Several issues will affect the collaboration: identification of the community, development of trust, awareness of cultural differences, power and infrastructure differentials, and stakeholder interaction. Researchers must remember that ethical action during all phases of research is necessary for maintaining productive relationships with communities.