Picto Article

Precarity, clinical labour and graduation from Ebola clinical research in West Africa


The provision of gifts and payments for healthy volunteer subjects remains an important topic in global health research ethics. This paper provides empirical insights into theoretical debates by documenting participants' perspectives on an Ebola vaccine trial in West Africa. This trial provided hundreds of Africans with regular payments, food packages and certificates for participation. The researchers conducting the trials considered these socioeconomic provisions to be gifts in accordance with contemporary ethical standards and principles. Trial participants viewed them differently, however, approaching trial participation as a means for training and employment in what was from their perspective a new job market: the post-Ebola expansion of research and health care systems. This paper analyses participation in contemporary research by viewing the contextspecific histories of trial participants through the lens of prior interventions, specifically participatory reintegration programmes conducted in Anglophone West Africa to overcome civil war crises. In particular, we argue that participation in the Ebola vaccine trial was inadvertently shaped by the design and outcomes of past reintegration programmes. Our results highlight the need to investigate existing socioeconomic landscapes which surround and indeed permeate clinical research as a prerequisite for understanding the participatory motives of vulnerable participants in West Africa and elsewhere.