Disaster-zone research needs a code of conduct
Researchers working in the aftermath of earthquakes, floods and other disasters need to appreciate how to interact with survivors, local officials and scholars without adding to those people’s problems, argue social scientists JC Gaillard and Lori Peek.
They call for an ‘ethical toolkit’ that helps scientists from outside the area to ensure that their work has a clear purpose, respects local voices and joins up with local researchers.
Respect local voices. Wealthy countries account for most disaster scholarship and funding. For example, more than 90% of articles published following Hurricane Katrina, which hit the southern United States in 2005, were by US researchers8. By contrast, fewer than 5% of publications on the 2010 Haiti earthquake were led by authors based in the country (see ‘Unequal partners’).
Similarly, 84% of articles published between 1977 and 2017 in Disasters, the flagship journal in the field, were led by authors based in countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Yet 93% of the people killed by large disasters over the same period lived in non-OECD countries, according to the EM-DAT disaster database