Workshop on Ethics, Research and Data Protection Held

The challenges in dealing with research ethics in the light of the covid-19 pandemic and data protection in the conduct and approval of research remains a daunting task that must be explored to mitigate its effect on the work of the five (5) Ethics Committees at the University of Ghana mandated to ensure that research activity protects human and non-human participants and complies with national and international regulations.

In line with its oversight responsibility to ensure continuous education and effective networking among the ethics committees, the Office of Research, Innovation and Development (ORID), through the Human and Animal Research Ethics Services (HARES) Team, which serves as the coordinating unit for ethical clearance and related activities, held its annual retreat at the Fiesta Royale Hotel on April 21st, 2022.

The purpose of retreat was to discuss the impact of the covid pandemic on the operations and administration of the various committees as well as evaluate the progress of the committee’s mission of protecting the rights, safety, and wellbeing of research participants during the global covid pandemic. The retreat, moderated by Ms. Helena Baidoo, the ORID HARES Team Lead in addition, offered a unique opportunity for members to share ideas on the challenges and the coping mechanisms adopted during the pandemic and the way forward.


         Professor George Obeng Adjei (Director of Research, ORID)

The Director of Research at ORID, Professor George Obeng Adjei in his remarks extended a warm welcome to all participants present as well as compliments from the Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research, Innovation and Development, Prof. Felix Asante who could not be present because of other equally important university engagements. He highlighted the enormity of the responsibility on members considering the consequences of ethical breaches in research approved by the ethics committees for which reason the importance of the retreat could not be overemphasised

Setting the tone for discussion, the Chairman for the event Professor Charles Mate-Kole, Department of Psychiatry provoked the thoughts of members with questions which often confront committee members bordering on their core mandate in balancing the science and ethical dilemmas.  He admittedly mentioned that in carrying out their responsibilities, the Committees are often saddled with a wide range of competing demands that require critical objective decisions with the aim of protecting research participant and the society.

                               Professor Charles Mate-Kole

The programme was enriched with presentations by legal practitioners on the provision of medical care, data protection and implication for Ethics Committees.

Mr Kwame Gyamfi, a Lawyer at the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital (KBTS-IRB) set out the position of the law in relation to patient care and the privacy/rights of individuals. He sighted practical instances in which hospital authorities confronted ethical challenges with patient consent and administration of medical treatment in the interest of a patient’s wellbeing.

                                                  Mr Kwame Gyamfi

The overview of the Data Protection Act 834 (2012) in an era of the proliferation of large volumes of unprotected data was the subject for a presentation delivered by Dr Patrick Adonoo Lebene, Director for Regulation and Compliance at the Data Protection Agency. He outlined the stark reality of personal and private data accessible online which posed a danger to individual security. He illustrated with vivid examples how the Act seeks to protect individual privacy and personal data by regulating the collection, use and disclosure of personal data.   He defined the requirements and procedures for registration and compliance with the Data Protection Act, and the obligations of a data controller, as the primary collector of data. It was stressed The Act enjoins all Public Institutions and individuals to register with the Data Protection Agency to safeguard these people from fines, loss of money and credibility.

                                     Dr Patrick Adonoo Lebene

In a follow up session, ethics committee members engaged in constructive panel discussion on ‘Navigating the COVID-19 pandemic: prospects, ethical challenges, and the way forward. Members shared experiences and exchanged ideas on surmounting challenges in reviewing and approving applications.

The absence of guidelines for reviewing protocols in emergency and other extenuating circumstances such as a pandemic and the inability to receive protocols in hard copy format were some challenges faced by the Committees.

The engagement highlighted the need for ongoing dialogue on serious issues like data protection and data sharing and how the members can go about their works without defaulting. The chairman together with the Director and the members were provoked with the thought of the need of having one of   each committee trained by the Data Protection Agency to acquire, the necessary skills to ensure adherence to data protection regulations in the course of their work.


Professor Obeng Adjei surmised that the Committees strive to provide meticulous reviews, therefore committee members and all other staff involved in the process must be abreast with current laws and practices in ethics review and ensure the prudent use of management tools available for work. 

He expressed profound gratitude to all and participants for their presence and active participation and most especially to the speakers for their time and insightful presentations.

                                               Group photo of participants at the workshop