Integrating Indigenous principles of human research ethics: The case of two Pacific Island Nations

Etivina Lovo1

1James Cook University, Townsville, Australia, 2Fiji National University, Suva, Fiji Islands

Principles of research bioethics are defined in the context of Western developed countries.  Understandings of Human Research Ethics (HRE) principles vary internationally which may be due to the influence of local beliefs and principles.  Indigenous Pacific Island researchers have experienced problems in human research activities because of these variations.

There seem to be two origins of HRE principles, internationally accepted principles that originated from developed countries and indigenous principles that originated from individual Pacific Island Nations.

Research activities within Pacific Island Nations are guided by internationally accepted principles that originated from developed countries.  Ethics committees govern HRE in countries accordingly.

The fundamentals of ethics in research in Pacific Island Nations have not been examined to identify important elements that can be used to strengthen human research and promote a high standard of HRE.  This is problematic because the protection of human participants in research is inadequate in the Pacific.

Although, human research has accelerated immensely in Pacific countries, HRE remains stagnant.   This PhD project proposes to conduct an in-depth investigation of the theoretical underpinning of indigenous and imported ethical principles that guide human research ethics activities in Fiji and Tonga.

A case study approach will employ qualitative methods of empirical inquiry which will allow in-depth assessment of HRE principles, Western and indigenous, and how they are applied in HRE activities in Fiji and Tonga.  A Fiji HRE Case Study and a Tonga HRE Case Study will be included. The case studies will identify priority setting processes and analyze the practices and views of HRE members and their affiliates that involve indigenous or foreign HRE principles.

The case studies will draw on a Critical Ethnographic theoretical perspective and framework to guide the PhD research project.


Mrs Etivina Lovo was born in Tonga and now working in the Fiji National University.   Developing Pacific Ethics Education is her goal.

She teaches and conducts research in areas of Ethics & Governance, Research Bioethics and Medical Ethics.  She also serves in the Ethics Review Committee.   She developed a curriculum for a PG Certificate in Research Ethics, focusing on Pacific Islands.

Her qualifications include; BA Management and Psychology and Master of Public Health; University of the South Pacific.  Master of International Research Bioethics; Monash University, Australia.

She is currently a PhD candidate (Cotutelle), Fiji National University and James Cook University.