Research Authorization Processes: A Descriptive Comparison of Kenya and The United States of America

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Journal of the Kenya National Commission for UNESCO


Obtaining research authorization to ensure compliance with ethics regulations is critical for those seeking to conduct research. Consequently, the primary objective of this study was to closely examine information regarding review boards and review processes that a researcher would encounter during the process of preparing and submitting a proposal. Information posted about the review process from two similar universities, one in the USA representing a localized review process and one in Kenya representing a centralized review process was analyzed to address two key questions, “How well does each system support the successful approval of the researcher in preparing a proposal,” and, “How might the strengths of each system be used to improve the other to better support increased research for all?” Methodology focused on using key features related to five questions a new researcher might ask when preparing and submitting a proposal: What structure governs the review process? What is the composition of the review board? What does the research approval process involve? What information and documents are required for submitting a proposal? What evaluation criteria are used to ensure fair and consistent review of research proposals? Side by side comparative charts of key features related to each of these questions was used for the analysis. It was concluded that both systems supported the approval of ethical research and that both institutions adhered to their respective government’s research ethics policies. The biggest differences in the two systems related to the actual information provided by the institution to guide proposal development and submission, ethics training provided to researchers, costs, and timelines. The most significant weakness for both institutions was lack of information regarding specific criteria used for evaluation of proposals. Consequently, four recommendations were made. First, a supportive and positive relationship needs to exist between the review board and researchers. Structural elements that create an adversarial rather than cooperative relationship need to be identified and eliminated in order to provide collaborative support. This is particularly important for novice researchers. Second, providing or developing ethics training for researchers has the potential of reducing frustration for those preparing a proposal and increasing the quality of submissions to the review board. Third, while there is cost associated with research review, placing the burden of this cost on individual researchers can be detrimental to promoting research. Governments and institutions need to consider the value of research and find ways to reduce or eliminate personal costs to the researcher. Finally, it is imperative that review boards provide current, accurate, and complete information regarding proposal preparation and develop rubrics that result in transparent evaluation and useable feedback for the researcher.



Research Authorization, Institutional Review Board, Research Permission, Research Regulation, Research Oversight, Localized Review Boards, Centralized Review Boards


Namai, J. O, et al (2023) Research authorization processes: a descriptive comparison of Kenya and the United States of America. Journal of the Kenya National Commission for UNESCO, 3 (1) ISSN 2958-7999,