An African Perspective of Benefits in Social Science Research

  • Beatrice K. AmuguneEmail author
  • Lillian Otieno-Omutoko
Part of the Research Ethics Forum book series (REFF, volume 7)


This chapter focuses on the African perspective of benefits in Social Science research with the aim of defining benefit sharing, describing benefits as a social construct and explaining how benefits are constructed in communities. Also discussed is the importance of weighing risks and benefits for avoidance of exploitation of participants. Benefits are discussed at different levels to show that the concept is fluid and is determined by geographical location, needs and group dynamics. Benefit sharing in research is an ongoing concern in developing countries. Foreign researchers sometimes conduct “helicopter” research in Africa to address their research agenda in communities without assurance of benefits. This oversight by these researchers has previously led to suspicion and mistrust. This chapter has been written based on collective experiences in collaborative research in low-income countries, class discussions in health research ethics and related desktop review of literature. The ensuing discussion reveals that the perception of benefits varies at individual, institutional, community level, participants’ and researchers’ perspectives. The chapter has been guided by the social construction process which views benefits as a social construct. The fact that benefits is a construct brings afore the need for researchers to respect community values, circumstances, culture, social practices and that fair benefits accrue to host communities. To deal with the challenge of benefit sharing, a benefit sharing conceptualisation model has been proposed to guide researchers in identification and prioritisation of benefits for trust and acceptability.


Benefit Benefit sharing Construct Distributive justice Perception of benefit Social construct 


  1. Allman, D., Ditmore, M. H., & Kaplan, K. (2014). Improving ethical and participatory practice for marginalized populations in biomedical HIV prevention trials: Lessons learnt from Thailand. PLoS One, 9(6), e100058. Scholar
  2. Alun, D. A., Mbete, B., Fegan, G., Molyneux, S., & Kinyanjui, S. (2012). Seeing ‘with my own eyes’: Strengthening interactions between researchers and schools. IDS Bulletin, 43, 61–67. Scholar
  3. Anzala, O. (2014). KAVI-Kangemi Newsletter. Retrieved from
  4. Chennells, R., & Steenkamp, A. (2018). International genomics research involving the San people. In D. Schroeder et al. (Eds.), Ethics dumping (Springer briefs in research and innovation governance). Retrieved from Scholar
  5. Cottone, R. R. (2004). Displacing the psychology of the individual in ethical decision-making: The social constructivism model. Canadian Journal of Counselling, 38(1), 5–13.Google Scholar
  6. Cunningham, A., Anoncho, V. F., & Sunderland, T. (2016). Power, policy and the Prunus africana bark trade, 1972–2015. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 178, 323–333. Scholar
  7. DaktariAfrica. (n.d.). Easy, mobile access to medical care for everyone as a trusted partner. Retrieved from
  8. Emanuel Ezekiel, Â. J., Wendler, D., Killen, J., & Grady, C. (2004). What makes clinical research in developing countries ethical? The benchmarks of ethical research. The Journal of Infectious Diseases, 189(5), 930–937. Scholar
  9. Galbin, A. (2014). An introduction to social constructionism. Social Research Reports, 26, 82–92. Retrieved from
  10. Lairumbi, G. M., Parker, M., Fitzpatrick, R., & English, M. (2012). Forms of benefit sharing in global health research undertaken in resource poor settings: A qualitative study of stakeholder’s views in Kenya. Philosophy, Ethics, and Humanities in Medicine, 7, 7. Scholar
  11. Luc, G., & Altare, C. (2017). Social science research in a humanitarian emergency context. Ethics Dumping case studies from North-South collaborations. Scholar
  12. Macqueen, K. M., & Auerbach, J. D. (2018). It is not about “the trial”: the critical role of effective engagement and participatory practices for moving the HIV research field forward. Journal of the International AIDS Society.
  13. Morel, C. (2010). Conservation and indigenous peoples’ rights: Must one necessarily come at the expense of the other? Policy Matters, 17, 198–205.Google Scholar
  14. Mwandi, Z., Murphy, A., Reed, J., Chesang, K., Njeuhmeli, E., Agot, K., Llewellyn, E., Kirui, C., Serrem, K., Abuya, I., Loolpapit, M., Mbayaki, R., Kiriro, N., Cherutich, P., Muraguri, N., Motoku, J., Kioko, J., Knight, N., & Bock, N. N. (2011). Voluntary medical male circumcision: Translating research into the rapid expansion of services in Kenya, 2008–2011. PLoS Medicine, 8(11), e1001130. Scholar
  15. Parker, M., & Kingori, P. (2016). Good and bad research collaborations: Researchers’ views on science and ethics in global health research. PLoS One, 11(10), e0163579. Scholar
  16. Poku, J.A., Newton, S., & Kass, N. (2011). Participants’ perceptions of research benefits in an African genetic epidemiology study. Developing World Bioethics, 11(3), 128–135. Retrieved from
  17. Tague, N. R. (2005). Plan–do–study–act cycle. In The quality toolbox (2nd ed., pp. 390–392). Milwaukee: ASQ Quality Press.Google Scholar
  18. Tukai, A. (2017). Sex workers involved in HIV/AIDS research. Ethics dumping case studies from north-south collaborations. Scholar
  19. UNESCO. (2005). Universal declaration on bioethics and human rights. Retrieved from

Further Reading

  1. Parker, S. (2010) Lessons from a ten-year funder collaborative: A case study of the partnership for higher education in Africa, New York: Partnership for higher education in Africa. In D. Schroeder & J. Cook Lucas (Eds.), (2013). Benefit sharing: from biodiversity to human genetics. Dordrecht: Springer.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of NairobiNairobiKenya

Personalised recommendations