MOU for Disaster Research Ethics
Where there is disaster, there are researchers. It is crucial to understand the underlying social, political, economic, infrastructural, and power dynamics in disasters. But research is not inherently good, and can even cause harm. Following Sandy, it was clear that the research ethics required by academic Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) do not cover many types of challenges encountered in disasters. In response, we created a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for ethics in disaster research with community input.
A memorandum of understanding is a document designed to coordinate expectations and procedures between groups- in this case, researchers and disaster survivors. Most importantly, the MOU is a framework for research ethics.
The MOU provided here is a template to help you start your discussions with communities as a researcher. It is designed to be a resource for a mutually beneficial researcher-community or academic-activist partnerships. It covers a number of different types of collaborations and partnerships, as well as various issues that might need discussion; it is neither a mandatory nor comprehensive list of ingredients but is meant as a starting point for discussion.