Researchers off to parts unknown

Michelle McGinn will be traveling soon, but she doesn't know where yet.

Michelle McGinn will be traveling soon for her research, but she doesn't know where yet.

A trio of Brock researchers will travel the world this spring – but at the moment they are missing one small detail: the exact destinations.

Michelle McGinn, principal investigator and an associate professor in Education, has been awarded nearly $70,000 for a project related to research ethics. The project will include travel to three unknown (for now) locations.

“We’re expecting three international trips between now and June, so the time is tight, yet all we can do at this stage is make sure our passports are up-to-date,” McGinn said.

The project, “Research Ethics on the Ground: Partnerships, Plans, and Practices in Global Population Health,” recently received funding from the International Development Research Centre through the Global Health Initiative.

Besides collaborations with researchers in low- and middle-income countries, the project includes meeting front-line workers involved in population health issues such as HIV/Aids education and prevention, or disease prevention strategies for migrant workers. The research team hopes to visit a country in South America, one in Africa and one in Asia.

A key component of the project is to better inform the practices of research ethics by examining ethical issues that arise throughout the research process. This includes:

  • the treatment of research participants
  • interactions with research collaborators
  • work within institutional structures
  • the day-to-day practices of undertaking health research as part of an international collaboration.

The research group includes two co-investigators from Brock, Brock graduate students, and a local graduate student in each host country. The co-investigators include Dan Malleck, associate professor in Community Health Sciences, and Susan Tilley, Education professor and graduate program director for the MA in Social Justice and Equity Studies. Brock students include Cristina Pinheiro and Robin Meyer-MacLeod, both MEd students. This team approach helps puts into action the collaboration principles McGinn has uncovered in her research and strives to teach in the classroom.

“ ‘Research’ or ‘researcher’ can be intimidating terms for students and other newcomers to research,” she said, adding she has witnessed firsthand the important contributions to research teams from people with disabilities, an Aboriginal elder, and a high school student.

The contributions of a wider range of individuals to research need to be recognized, she said. They bring new insights and perspectives that can completely reshape the work in ways that lead to significant scholarly advances.

As chair of the Brock’s Research Ethics Board for more than three years, McGinn said she is committed to understanding and supporting the development of researchers. This includes students participating in research courses, working as research assistants, or writing a thesis, as well as seasoned researchers who continue to learn.

While awaiting news of where they will go, the first phase of the project includes textual analysis of all manner of communications related to research projects. These projects involve international collaborations in population health, including websites, grant applications, progress reports, and written correspondence between the collaborators and their respective research ethics review boards.

Keep up to date with the project at

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