Ethical Issues in Disaster Research: Lessons from Hurricane Katrina


Conducting research in the wake of a catastrophic event imposes the dual responsibilities on researchers of protecting the rights of the survivors as research subjects, while also ensuring research quality and the dissemination and application of findings. This article, based partially on the authors’ experiences of conducting research in school districts following Hurricane Katrina, examines the ethical issues that arise when working with survivors, reticent organizations, and institutional review boards. Challenges experienced by researchers concerning access, informed consent, confidentiality, subject compensation, and enlisting the assistance of stressed institutions are described.

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Correspondence to Carrie Y. Barron Ausbrooks.

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This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0036566000. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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Barron Ausbrooks, C.Y., Barrett, E.J. & Martinez-Cosio, M. Ethical Issues in Disaster Research: Lessons from Hurricane Katrina. Popul Res Policy Rev 28, 93–106 (2009).

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  • Disaster research
  • Hurricane Katrina
  • Research ethics