Social responsibility and research ethics in community-driven studies of industrialized hog production

Environ Health Perspect. 2002 May;110(5):437-44. doi: 10.1289/ehp.02110437.


Environmental health research can document exposures and health effects that result from inequitable relationships between communities of low income or people of color and the institutions that derive benefits (profits, federal and state funding or services, avoidance of wastes) from activities and policies that burden these communities. Researchers, most of whom work in relatively privileged institutions, are placed in situations of conflicting loyalties if they conduct research in collaboration with, or on behalf of, communities burdened by environmental injustices. These conflicts can threaten the self-interest of researchers and may raise social and ethical issues that do not typically arise in research projects that respond to the agendas of institutions. This article describes how we addressed issues of research ethics and social responsibility in environmental health research on industrialized hog production in North Carolina. Researchers and institutional review boards are not well prepared to address ethical issues when interests of entire communities, as well as individual research participants, are involved. Community-driven research partnerships can help address problems in research ethics and can enhance the social responsibility of researchers and their institutions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture*
  • Animals
  • Confidentiality
  • Environmental Health*
  • Ethics, Professional*
  • Humans
  • North Carolina
  • Poverty
  • Prejudice*
  • Research / standards
  • Social Responsibility*
  • Swine
  • Water Pollution / adverse effects*