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Cultural Relativity and Acceptance of Embryonic Stem Cell Research

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There is a debate about the ethical implications of using human embryos in stem cell research, which can be influenced by cultural, moral, and social values. This paper argues for an adaptable framework to accommodate diverse cultural and religious perspectives. By using an adaptive ethics model, research protections can reflect various populations and foster growth in stem cell research possibilities.

INTRODUCTION

Stem cell research combines biology, medicine, and technology, promising to alter health care and the understanding of human development. Yet, ethical contention exists because of individuals’ perceptions of using human embryos based on their various cultural, moral, and social values. While these disagreements concerning policy, use, and general acceptance have prompted the development of an international ethics policy, such a uniform approach can overlook the nuanced ethical landscapes between cultures. With diverse viewpoints in public health, a single global policy, especially one reflecting Western ethics or the ethics prevalent in high-income countries, is impractical. This paper argues for a culturally sensitive, adaptable framework for the use of embryonic stem cells. Stem cell policy should accommodate varying ethical viewpoints and promote an effective global dialogue. With an extension of an ethics model that can adapt to various cultures, we recommend localized guidelines that reflect the moral views of the people those guidelines serve.

Stem cells, characterized by their unique ability to differentiate into various cell types, enable the repair or replacement of damaged tissues. Two primary types of stem cells are somatic stem cells (adult stem cells) and embryonic stem cells. Adult stem cells exist in developed tissues and maintain the body’s repair processes. [1] Embryonic stem cells (ESC) are remarkably pluripotent or versatile, making them valuable in research. [2] However, the use of ESCs has sparked ethics debates. Considering the potential of embryonic stem cells, research guidelines are essential. The International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) provides international stem cell research guidelines. They call for “public conversations touching on the scientific significance as well as the societal and ethical issues raised by ESC research.” [3] The ISSCR also publishes updates about culturing human embryos 14 days post fertilization, suggesting local policies and regulations should continue to evolve as ESC research develops. [4]  Like the ISSCR, which calls for local law and policy to adapt to developing stem cell research given cultural acceptance, this paper highlights the importance of local social factors such as religion and culture.

I.     Global Cultural Perspective of Embryonic Stem Cells

Views on ESCs vary throughout the world. Some countries readily embrace stem cell research and therapies, while others have stricter regulations due to ethical concerns surrounding embryonic stem cells and when an embryo becomes entitled to moral consideration. The philosophical issue of when the “someone” begins to be a human after fertilization, in the morally relevant sense, [5] impacts when an embryo becomes not just worthy of protection but morally entitled to it. The process of creating embryonic stem cell lines involves the destruction of the embryos for research. [6] Consequently, global engagement in ESC research depends on social-cultural acceptability.

a.     US and Rights-Based Cultures

In the United States, attitudes toward stem cell therapies are diverse. The ethics and social approaches, which value individualism, [7] trigger debates regarding the destruction of human embryos, creating a complex regulatory environment. For example, the 1996 Dickey-Wicker Amendment prohibited federal funding for the creation of embryos for research and the destruction of embryos for “more than allowed for research on fetuses in utero.” [8] Following suit, in 2001, the Bush Administration heavily restricted stem cell lines for research. However, the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2005 was proposed to help develop ESC research but was ultimately vetoed. [9] Under the Obama administration, in 2009, an executive order lifted restrictions allowing for more development in this field. [10] The flux of research capacity and funding parallels the different cultural perceptions of human dignity of the embryo and how it is socially presented within the country’s research culture. [11]

b.     Ubuntu and Collective Cultures

African bioethics differs from Western individualism because of the different traditions and values. African traditions, as described by individuals from South Africa and supported by some studies in other African countries, including Ghana and Kenya, follow the African moral philosophies of Ubuntu or Botho and Ukama , which “advocates for a form of wholeness that comes through one’s relationship and connectedness with other people in the society,” [12] making autonomy a socially collective concept. In this context, for the community to act autonomously, individuals would come together to decide what is best for the collective. Thus, stem cell research would require examining the value of the research to society as a whole and the use of the embryos as a collective societal resource. If society views the source as part of the collective whole, and opposes using stem cells, compromising the cultural values to pursue research may cause social detachment and stunt research growth. [13] Based on local culture and moral philosophy, the permissibility of stem cell research depends on how embryo, stem cell, and cell line therapies relate to the community as a whole. Ubuntu is the expression of humanness, with the person’s identity drawn from the “’I am because we are’” value. [14] The decision in a collectivistic culture becomes one born of cultural context, and individual decisions give deference to others in the society.

Consent differs in cultures where thought and moral philosophy are based on a collective paradigm. So, applying Western bioethical concepts is unrealistic. For one, Africa is a diverse continent with many countries with different belief systems, access to health care, and reliance on traditional or Western medicines. Where traditional medicine is the primary treatment, the “’restrictive focus on biomedically-related bioethics’” [is] problematic in African contexts because it neglects bioethical issues raised by traditional systems.” [15] No single approach applies in all areas or contexts. Rather than evaluating the permissibility of ESC research according to Western concepts such as the four principles approach, different ethics approaches should prevail.

Another consideration is the socio-economic standing of countries. In parts of South Africa, researchers have not focused heavily on contributing to the stem cell discourse, either because it is not considered health care or a health science priority or because resources are unavailable. [16] Each country’s priorities differ given different social, political, and economic factors. In South Africa, for instance, areas such as maternal mortality, non-communicable diseases, telemedicine, and the strength of health systems need improvement and require more focus. [17] Stem cell research could benefit the population, but it also could divert resources from basic medical care. Researchers in South Africa adhere to the National Health Act and Medicines Control Act in South Africa and international guidelines; however, the Act is not strictly enforced, and there is no clear legislation for research conduct or ethical guidelines. [18]

Some parts of Africa condemn stem cell research. For example, 98.2 percent of the Tunisian population is Muslim. [19] Tunisia does not permit stem cell research because of moral conflict with a Fatwa. Religion heavily saturates the regulation and direction of research. [20] Stem cell use became permissible for reproductive purposes only recently, with tight restrictions preventing cells from being used in any research other than procedures concerning ART/IVF.  Their use is conditioned on consent, and available only to married couples. [21] The community's receptiveness to stem cell research depends on including communitarian African ethics.

c.     Asia

Some Asian countries also have a collective model of ethics and decision making. [22] In China, the ethics model promotes a sincere respect for life or human dignity, [23] based on protective medicine. This model, influenced by Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), [24] recognizes Qi as the vital energy delivered via the meridians of the body; it connects illness to body systems, the body’s entire constitution, and the universe for a holistic bond of nature, health, and quality of life. [25] Following a protective ethics model, and traditional customs of wholeness, investment in stem cell research is heavily desired for its applications in regenerative therapies, disease modeling, and protective medicines. In a survey of medical students and healthcare practitioners, 30.8 percent considered stem cell research morally unacceptable while 63.5 percent accepted medical research using human embryonic stem cells. Of these individuals, 89.9 percent supported increased funding for stem cell research. [26] The scientific community might not reflect the overall population. From 1997 to 2019, China spent a total of $576 million (USD) on stem cell research at 8,050 stem cell programs, increased published presence from 0.6 percent to 14.01 percent of total global stem cell publications as of 2014, and made significant strides in cell-based therapies for various medical conditions. [27] However, while China has made substantial investments in stem cell research and achieved notable progress in clinical applications, concerns linger regarding ethical oversight and transparency. [28] For example, the China Biosecurity Law, promoted by the National Health Commission and China Hospital Association, attempted to mitigate risks by introducing an institutional review board (IRB) in the regulatory bodies. 5800 IRBs registered with the Chinese Clinical Trial Registry since 2021. [29] However, issues still need to be addressed in implementing effective IRB review and approval procedures.

The substantial government funding and focus on scientific advancement have sometimes overshadowed considerations of regional cultures, ethnic minorities, and individual perspectives, particularly evident during the one-child policy era. As government policy adapts to promote public stability, such as the change from the one-child to the two-child policy, [30] research ethics should also adapt to ensure respect for the values of its represented peoples.

Japan is also relatively supportive of stem cell research and therapies. Japan has a more transparent regulatory framework, allowing for faster approval of regenerative medicine products, which has led to several advanced clinical trials and therapies. [31] South Korea is also actively engaged in stem cell research and has a history of breakthroughs in cloning and embryonic stem cells. [32] However, the field is controversial, and there are issues of scientific integrity. For example, the Korean FDA fast-tracked products for approval, [33] and in another instance, the oocyte source was unclear and possibly violated ethical standards. [34] Trust is important in research, as it builds collaborative foundations between colleagues, trial participant comfort, open-mindedness for complicated and sensitive discussions, and supports regulatory procedures for stakeholders. There is a need to respect the culture’s interest, engagement, and for research and clinical trials to be transparent and have ethical oversight to promote global research discourse and trust.

d.     Middle East

Countries in the Middle East have varying degrees of acceptance of or restrictions to policies related to using embryonic stem cells due to cultural and religious influences. Saudi Arabia has made significant contributions to stem cell research, and conducts research based on international guidelines for ethical conduct and under strict adherence to guidelines in accordance with Islamic principles. Specifically, the Saudi government and people require ESC research to adhere to Sharia law. In addition to umbilical and placental stem cells, [35] Saudi Arabia permits the use of embryonic stem cells as long as they come from miscarriages, therapeutic abortions permissible by Sharia law, or are left over from in vitro fertilization and donated to research. [36] Laws and ethical guidelines for stem cell research allow the development of research institutions such as the King Abdullah International Medical Research Center, which has a cord blood bank and a stem cell registry with nearly 10,000 donors. [37] Such volume and acceptance are due to the ethical ‘permissibility’ of the donor sources, which do not conflict with religious pillars. However, some researchers err on the side of caution, choosing not to use embryos or fetal tissue as they feel it is unethical to do so. [38]

Jordan has a positive research ethics culture. [39] However, there is a significant issue of lack of trust in researchers, with 45.23 percent (38.66 percent agreeing and 6.57 percent strongly agreeing) of Jordanians holding a low level of trust in researchers, compared to 81.34 percent of Jordanians agreeing that they feel safe to participate in a research trial. [40] Safety testifies to the feeling of confidence that adequate measures are in place to protect participants from harm, whereas trust in researchers could represent the confidence in researchers to act in the participants’ best interests, adhere to ethical guidelines, provide accurate information, and respect participants’ rights and dignity. One method to improve trust would be to address communication issues relevant to ESC. Legislation surrounding stem cell research has adopted specific language, especially concerning clarification “between ‘stem cells’ and ‘embryonic stem cells’” in translation. [41] Furthermore, legislation “mandates the creation of a national committee… laying out specific regulations for stem-cell banking in accordance with international standards.” [42] This broad regulation opens the door for future global engagement and maintains transparency. However, these regulations may also constrain the influence of research direction, pace, and accessibility of research outcomes.

e.     Europe

In the European Union (EU), ethics is also principle-based, but the principles of autonomy, dignity, integrity, and vulnerability are interconnected. [43] As such, the opportunity for cohesion and concessions between individuals’ thoughts and ideals allows for a more adaptable ethics model due to the flexible principles that relate to the human experience The EU has put forth a framework in its Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Dignity of the Human Being allowing member states to take different approaches. Each European state applies these principles to its specific conventions, leading to or reflecting different acceptance levels of stem cell research. [44]

For example, in Germany, Lebenzusammenhang , or the coherence of life, references integrity in the unity of human culture. Namely, the personal sphere “should not be subject to external intervention.” [45]  Stem cell interventions could affect this concept of bodily completeness, leading to heavy restrictions. Under the Grundgesetz, human dignity and the right to life with physical integrity are paramount. [46] The Embryo Protection Act of 1991 made producing cell lines illegal. Cell lines can be imported if approved by the Central Ethics Commission for Stem Cell Research only if they were derived before May 2007. [47] Stem cell research respects the integrity of life for the embryo with heavy specifications and intense oversight. This is vastly different in Finland, where the regulatory bodies find research more permissible in IVF excess, but only up to 14 days after fertilization. [48] Spain’s approach differs still, with a comprehensive regulatory framework. [49] Thus, research regulation can be culture-specific due to variations in applied principles. Diverse cultures call for various approaches to ethical permissibility. [50] Only an adaptive-deliberative model can address the cultural constructions of self and achieve positive, culturally sensitive stem cell research practices. [51]

II.     Religious Perspectives on ESC

Embryonic stem cell sources are the main consideration within religious contexts. While individuals may not regard their own religious texts as authoritative or factual, religion can shape their foundations or perspectives.

The Qur'an states:

“And indeed We created man from a quintessence of clay. Then We placed within him a small quantity of nutfa (sperm to fertilize) in a safe place. Then We have fashioned the nutfa into an ‘alaqa (clinging clot or cell cluster), then We developed the ‘alaqa into mudgha (a lump of flesh), and We made mudgha into bones, and clothed the bones with flesh, then We brought it into being as a new creation. So Blessed is Allah, the Best of Creators.” [52]

Many scholars of Islam estimate the time of soul installment, marked by the angel breathing in the soul to bring the individual into creation, as 120 days from conception. [53] Personhood begins at this point, and the value of life would prohibit research or experimentation that could harm the individual. If the fetus is more than 120 days old, the time ensoulment is interpreted to occur according to Islamic law, abortion is no longer permissible. [54] There are a few opposing opinions about early embryos in Islamic traditions. According to some Islamic theologians, there is no ensoulment of the early embryo, which is the source of stem cells for ESC research. [55]

In Buddhism, the stance on stem cell research is not settled. The main tenets, the prohibition against harming or destroying others (ahimsa) and the pursuit of knowledge (prajña) and compassion (karuna), leave Buddhist scholars and communities divided. [56] Some scholars argue stem cell research is in accordance with the Buddhist tenet of seeking knowledge and ending human suffering. Others feel it violates the principle of not harming others. Finding the balance between these two points relies on the karmic burden of Buddhist morality. In trying to prevent ahimsa towards the embryo, Buddhist scholars suggest that to comply with Buddhist tenets, research cannot be done as the embryo has personhood at the moment of conception and would reincarnate immediately, harming the individual's ability to build their karmic burden. [57] On the other hand, the Bodhisattvas, those considered to be on the path to enlightenment or Nirvana, have given organs and flesh to others to help alleviate grieving and to benefit all. [58] Acceptance varies on applied beliefs and interpretations.

Catholicism does not support embryonic stem cell research, as it entails creation or destruction of human embryos. This destruction conflicts with the belief in the sanctity of life. For example, in the Old Testament, Genesis describes humanity as being created in God’s image and multiplying on the Earth, referencing the sacred rights to human conception and the purpose of development and life. In the Ten Commandments, the tenet that one should not kill has numerous interpretations where killing could mean murder or shedding of the sanctity of life, demonstrating the high value of human personhood. In other books, the theological conception of when life begins is interpreted as in utero, [59] highlighting the inviolability of life and its formation in vivo to make a religious point for accepting such research as relatively limited, if at all. [60] The Vatican has released ethical directives to help apply a theological basis to modern-day conflicts. The Magisterium of the Church states that “unless there is a moral certainty of not causing harm,” experimentation on fetuses, fertilized cells, stem cells, or embryos constitutes a crime. [61] Such procedures would not respect the human person who exists at these stages, according to Catholicism. Damages to the embryo are considered gravely immoral and illicit. [62] Although the Catholic Church officially opposes abortion, surveys demonstrate that many Catholic people hold pro-choice views, whether due to the context of conception, stage of pregnancy, threat to the mother’s life, or for other reasons, demonstrating that practicing members can also accept some but not all tenets. [63]

Some major Jewish denominations, such as the Reform, Conservative, and Reconstructionist movements, are open to supporting ESC use or research as long as it is for saving a life. [64] Within Judaism, the Talmud, or study, gives personhood to the child at birth and emphasizes that life does not begin at conception: [65]

“If she is found pregnant, until the fortieth day it is mere fluid,” [66]

Whereas most religions prioritize the status of human embryos, the Halakah (Jewish religious law) states that to save one life, most other religious laws can be ignored because it is in pursuit of preservation. [67] Stem cell research is accepted due to application of these religious laws.

We recognize that all religions contain subsets and sects. The variety of environmental and cultural differences within religious groups requires further analysis to respect the flexibility of religious thoughts and practices. We make no presumptions that all cultures require notions of autonomy or morality as under the common morality theory , which asserts a set of universal moral norms that all individuals share provides moral reasoning and guides ethical decisions. [68] We only wish to show that the interaction with morality varies between cultures and countries.

III.     A Flexible Ethical Approach

The plurality of different moral approaches described above demonstrates that there can be no universally acceptable uniform law for ESC on a global scale. Instead of developing one standard, flexible ethical applications must be continued. We recommend local guidelines that incorporate important cultural and ethical priorities.

While the Declaration of Helsinki is more relevant to people in clinical trials receiving ESC products, in keeping with the tradition of protections for research subjects, consent of the donor is an ethical requirement for ESC donation in many jurisdictions including the US, Canada, and Europe. [69] The Declaration of Helsinki provides a reference point for regulatory standards and could potentially be used as a universal baseline for obtaining consent prior to gamete or embryo donation.

For instance, in Columbia University’s egg donor program for stem cell research, donors followed standard screening protocols and “underwent counseling sessions that included information as to the purpose of oocyte donation for research, what the oocytes would be used for, the risks and benefits of donation, and process of oocyte stimulation” to ensure transparency for consent. [70] The program helped advance stem cell research and provided clear and safe research methods with paid participants. Though paid participation or covering costs of incidental expenses may not be socially acceptable in every culture or context, [71] and creating embryos for ESC research is illegal in many jurisdictions, Columbia’s program was effective because of the clear and honest communications with donors, IRBs, and related stakeholders.  This example demonstrates that cultural acceptance of scientific research and of the idea that an egg or embryo does not have personhood is likely behind societal acceptance of donating eggs for ESC research. As noted, many countries do not permit the creation of embryos for research.

Proper communication and education regarding the process and purpose of stem cell research may bolster comprehension and garner more acceptance. “Given the sensitive subject material, a complete consent process can support voluntary participation through trust, understanding, and ethical norms from the cultures and morals participants value. This can be hard for researchers entering countries of different socioeconomic stability, with different languages and different societal values. [72]

An adequate moral foundation in medical ethics is derived from the cultural and religious basis that informs knowledge and actions. [73] Understanding local cultural and religious values and their impact on research could help researchers develop humility and promote inclusion.

IV.     Concerns

Some may argue that if researchers all adhere to one ethics standard, protection will be satisfied across all borders, and the global public will trust researchers. However, defining what needs to be protected and how to define such research standards is very specific to the people to which standards are applied. We suggest that applying one uniform guide cannot accurately protect each individual because we all possess our own perceptions and interpretations of social values. [74] Therefore, the issue of not adjusting to the moral pluralism between peoples in applying one standard of ethics can be resolved by building out ethics models that can be adapted to different cultures and religions.

Other concerns include medical tourism, which may promote health inequities. [75] Some countries may develop and approve products derived from ESC research before others, compromising research ethics or drug approval processes. There are also concerns about the sale of unauthorized stem cell treatments, for example, those without FDA approval in the United States. Countries with robust research infrastructures may be tempted to attract medical tourists, and some customers will have false hopes based on aggressive publicity of unproven treatments. [76]

For example, in China, stem cell clinics can market to foreign clients who are not protected under the regulatory regimes. Companies employ a marketing strategy of “ethically friendly” therapies. Specifically, in the case of Beike, China’s leading stem cell tourism company and sprouting network, ethical oversight of administrators or health bureaus at one site has “the unintended consequence of shifting questionable activities to another node in Beike's diffuse network.” [77] In contrast, Jordan is aware of stem cell research’s potential abuse and its own status as a “health-care hub.” Jordan’s expanded regulations include preserving the interests of individuals in clinical trials and banning private companies from ESC research to preserve transparency and the integrity of research practices. [78]

The social priorities of the community are also a concern. The ISSCR explicitly states that guidelines “should be periodically revised to accommodate scientific advances, new challenges, and evolving social priorities.” [79] The adaptable ethics model extends this consideration further by addressing whether research is warranted given the varying degrees of socioeconomic conditions, political stability, and healthcare accessibilities and limitations. An ethical approach would require discussion about resource allocation and appropriate distribution of funds. [80]

While some religions emphasize the sanctity of life from conception, which may lead to public opposition to ESC research, others encourage ESC research due to its potential for healing and alleviating human pain. Many countries have special regulations that balance local views on embryonic personhood, the benefits of research as individual or societal goods, and the protection of human research subjects. To foster understanding and constructive dialogue, global policy frameworks should prioritize the protection of universal human rights, transparency, and informed consent. In addition to these foundational global policies, we recommend tailoring local guidelines to reflect the diverse cultural and religious perspectives of the populations they govern. Ethics models should be adapted to local populations to effectively establish research protections, growth, and possibilities of stem cell research.

For example, in countries with strong beliefs in the moral sanctity of embryos or heavy religious restrictions, an adaptive model can allow for discussion instead of immediate rejection. In countries with limited individual rights and voice in science policy, an adaptive model ensures cultural, moral, and religious views are taken into consideration, thereby building social inclusion. While this ethical consideration by the government may not give a complete voice to every individual, it will help balance policies and maintain the diverse perspectives of those it affects. Embracing an adaptive ethics model of ESC research promotes open-minded dialogue and respect for the importance of human belief and tradition. By actively engaging with cultural and religious values, researchers can better handle disagreements and promote ethical research practices that benefit each society.

This brief exploration of the religious and cultural differences that impact ESC research reveals the nuances of relative ethics and highlights a need for local policymakers to apply a more intense adaptive model.

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[5] Concerning the moral philosophies of stem cell research, our paper does not posit a personal moral stance nor delve into the “when” of human life begins. To read further about the philosophical debate, consider the following sources:

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[7] Socially, at its core, the Western approach to ethics is widely principle-based, autonomy being one of the key factors to ensure a fundamental respect for persons within research. For information regarding autonomy in research, see: Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, & National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research (1978). The Belmont Report. Ethical principles and guidelines for the protection of human subjects of research.; For a more in-depth review of autonomy within the US, see: Beauchamp, T. L., & Childress, J. F. (1994). Principles of Biomedical Ethics . Oxford University Press.

[8] Sherley v. Sebelius , 644 F.3d 388 (D.C. Cir. 2011), citing 45 C.F.R. 46.204(b) and [42 U.S.C. § 289g(b)]. https://www.cadc.uscourts.gov/internet/opinions.nsf/6c690438a9b43dd685257a64004ebf99/$file/11-5241-1391178.pdf

[9] Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2005, H. R. 810, 109 th Cong. (2001). https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/109/hr810/text ; Bush, G. W. (2006, July 19). Message to the House of Representatives . National Archives and Records Administration. https://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2006/07/20060719-5.html

[10] National Archives and Records Administration. (2009, March 9). Executive order 13505 -- removing barriers to responsible scientific research involving human stem cells . National Archives and Records Administration. https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/removing-barriers-responsible-scientific-research-involving-human-stem-cells

[11] Hurlbut, W. B. (2006). Science, Religion, and the Politics of Stem Cells.  Social Research ,  73 (3), 819–834. http://www.jstor.org/stable/40971854

[12] Akpa-Inyang, Francis & Chima, Sylvester. (2021). South African traditional values and beliefs regarding informed consent and limitations of the principle of respect for autonomy in African communities: a cross-cultural qualitative study. BMC Medical Ethics . 22. 10.1186/s12910-021-00678-4.

[13] Source for further reading: Tangwa G. B. (2007). Moral status of embryonic stem cells: perspective of an African villager. Bioethics , 21(8), 449–457. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8519.2007.00582.x , see also Mnisi, F. M. (2020). An African analysis based on ethics of Ubuntu - are human embryonic stem cell patents morally justifiable? African Insight , 49 (4).

[14] Jecker, N. S., & Atuire, C. (2021). Bioethics in Africa: A contextually enlightened analysis of three cases. Developing World Bioethics , 22 (2), 112–122. https://doi.org/10.1111/dewb.12324

[15] Jecker, N. S., & Atuire, C. (2021). Bioethics in Africa: A contextually enlightened analysis of three cases. Developing World Bioethics, 22(2), 112–122. https://doi.org/10.1111/dewb.12324

[16] Jackson, C.S., Pepper, M.S. Opportunities and barriers to establishing a cell therapy programme in South Africa.  Stem Cell Res Ther   4 , 54 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1186/scrt204 ; Pew Research Center. (2014, May 1). Public health a major priority in African nations . Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project. https://www.pewresearch.org/global/2014/05/01/public-health-a-major-priority-in-african-nations/

[17] Department of Health Republic of South Africa. (2021). Health Research Priorities (revised) for South Africa 2021-2024 . National Health Research Strategy. https://www.health.gov.za/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/National-Health-Research-Priorities-2021-2024.pdf

[18] Oosthuizen, H. (2013). Legal and Ethical Issues in Stem Cell Research in South Africa. In: Beran, R. (eds) Legal and Forensic Medicine. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-32338-6_80 , see also: Gaobotse G (2018) Stem Cell Research in Africa: Legislation and Challenges. J Regen Med 7:1. doi: 10.4172/2325-9620.1000142

[19] United States Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services. (1998). Tunisia: Information on the status of Christian conversions in Tunisia . UNHCR Web Archive. https://webarchive.archive.unhcr.org/20230522142618/https://www.refworld.org/docid/3df0be9a2.html

[20] Gaobotse, G. (2018) Stem Cell Research in Africa: Legislation and Challenges. J Regen Med 7:1. doi: 10.4172/2325-9620.1000142

[21] Kooli, C. Review of assisted reproduction techniques, laws, and regulations in Muslim countries.  Middle East Fertil Soc J   24 , 8 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1186/s43043-019-0011-0 ; Gaobotse, G. (2018) Stem Cell Research in Africa: Legislation and Challenges. J Regen Med 7:1. doi: 10.4172/2325-9620.1000142

[22] Pang M. C. (1999). Protective truthfulness: the Chinese way of safeguarding patients in informed treatment decisions. Journal of medical ethics , 25(3), 247–253. https://doi.org/10.1136/jme.25.3.247

[23] Wang, L., Wang, F., & Zhang, W. (2021). Bioethics in China’s biosecurity law: Forms, effects, and unsettled issues. Journal of law and the biosciences , 8(1).  https://doi.org/10.1093/jlb/lsab019 https://academic.oup.com/jlb/article/8/1/lsab019/6299199

[24] Wang, Y., Xue, Y., & Guo, H. D. (2022). Intervention effects of traditional Chinese medicine on stem cell therapy of myocardial infarction.  Frontiers in pharmacology ,  13 , 1013740. https://doi.org/10.3389/fphar.2022.1013740

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[27] Luo, D., Xu, Z., Wang, Z., & Ran, W. (2021). China's Stem Cell Research and Knowledge Levels of Medical Practitioners and Students.  Stem cells international ,  2021 , 6667743. https://doi.org/10.1155/2021/6667743

[28] Zhang, J. Y. (2017). Lost in translation? accountability and governance of Clinical Stem Cell Research in China. Regenerative Medicine , 12 (6), 647–656. https://doi.org/10.2217/rme-2017-0035

[29] Wang, L., Wang, F., & Zhang, W. (2021). Bioethics in China’s biosecurity law: Forms, effects, and unsettled issues. Journal of law and the biosciences , 8(1).  https://doi.org/10.1093/jlb/lsab019 https://academic.oup.com/jlb/article/8/1/lsab019/6299199

[30] Chen, H., Wei, T., Wang, H.  et al.  Association of China’s two-child policy with changes in number of births and birth defects rate, 2008–2017.  BMC Public Health   22 , 434 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-022-12839-0

[31] Azuma, K. Regulatory Landscape of Regenerative Medicine in Japan.  Curr Stem Cell Rep   1 , 118–128 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40778-015-0012-6

[32] Harris, R. (2005, May 19). Researchers Report Advance in Stem Cell Production . NPR. https://www.npr.org/2005/05/19/4658967/researchers-report-advance-in-stem-cell-production

[33] Park, S. (2012). South Korea steps up stem-cell work.  Nature . https://doi.org/10.1038/nature.2012.10565

[34] Resnik, D. B., Shamoo, A. E., & Krimsky, S. (2006). Fraudulent human embryonic stem cell research in South Korea: lessons learned.  Accountability in research ,  13 (1), 101–109. https://doi.org/10.1080/08989620600634193 .

[35] Alahmad, G., Aljohani, S., & Najjar, M. F. (2020). Ethical challenges regarding the use of stem cells: interviews with researchers from Saudi Arabia. BMC medical ethics, 21(1), 35. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12910-020-00482-6

[36] Association for the Advancement of Blood and Biotherapies.  https://www.aabb.org/regulatory-and-advocacy/regulatory-affairs/regulatory-for-cellular-therapies/international-competent-authorities/saudi-arabia

[37] Alahmad, G., Aljohani, S., & Najjar, M. F. (2020). Ethical challenges regarding the use of stem cells: Interviews with researchers from Saudi Arabia.  BMC medical ethics ,  21 (1), 35. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12910-020-00482-6

[38] Alahmad, G., Aljohani, S., & Najjar, M. F. (2020). Ethical challenges regarding the use of stem cells: Interviews with researchers from Saudi Arabia. BMC medical ethics , 21(1), 35. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12910-020-00482-6

Culturally, autonomy practices follow a relational autonomy approach based on a paternalistic deontological health care model. The adherence to strict international research policies and religious pillars within the regulatory environment is a great foundation for research ethics. However, there is a need to develop locally targeted ethics approaches for research (as called for in Alahmad, G., Aljohani, S., & Najjar, M. F. (2020). Ethical challenges regarding the use of stem cells: interviews with researchers from Saudi Arabia. BMC medical ethics, 21(1), 35. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12910-020-00482-6), this decision-making approach may help advise a research decision model. For more on the clinical cultural autonomy approaches, see: Alabdullah, Y. Y., Alzaid, E., Alsaad, S., Alamri, T., Alolayan, S. W., Bah, S., & Aljoudi, A. S. (2022). Autonomy and paternalism in Shared decision‐making in a Saudi Arabian tertiary hospital: A cross‐sectional study. Developing World Bioethics , 23 (3), 260–268. https://doi.org/10.1111/dewb.12355 ; Bukhari, A. A. (2017). Universal Principles of Bioethics and Patient Rights in Saudi Arabia (Doctoral dissertation, Duquesne University). https://dsc.duq.edu/etd/124; Ladha, S., Nakshawani, S. A., Alzaidy, A., & Tarab, B. (2023, October 26). Islam and Bioethics: What We All Need to Know . Columbia University School of Professional Studies. https://sps.columbia.edu/events/islam-and-bioethics-what-we-all-need-know

[39] Ababneh, M. A., Al-Azzam, S. I., Alzoubi, K., Rababa’h, A., & Al Demour, S. (2021). Understanding and attitudes of the Jordanian public about clinical research ethics.  Research Ethics ,  17 (2), 228-241.  https://doi.org/10.1177/1747016120966779

[40] Ababneh, M. A., Al-Azzam, S. I., Alzoubi, K., Rababa’h, A., & Al Demour, S. (2021). Understanding and attitudes of the Jordanian public about clinical research ethics.  Research Ethics ,  17 (2), 228-241.  https://doi.org/10.1177/1747016120966779

[41] Dajani, R. (2014). Jordan’s stem-cell law can guide the Middle East.  Nature  510, 189. https://doi.org/10.1038/510189a

[42] Dajani, R. (2014). Jordan’s stem-cell law can guide the Middle East.  Nature  510, 189. https://doi.org/10.1038/510189a

[43] The EU’s definition of autonomy relates to the capacity for creating ideas, moral insight, decisions, and actions without constraint, personal responsibility, and informed consent. However, the EU views autonomy as not completely able to protect individuals and depends on other principles, such as dignity, which “expresses the intrinsic worth and fundamental equality of all human beings.” Rendtorff, J.D., Kemp, P. (2019). Four Ethical Principles in European Bioethics and Biolaw: Autonomy, Dignity, Integrity and Vulnerability. In: Valdés, E., Lecaros, J. (eds) Biolaw and Policy in the Twenty-First Century. International Library of Ethics, Law, and the New Medicine, vol 78. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-05903-3_3

[44] Council of Europe. Convention for the protection of Human Rights and Dignity of the Human Being with regard to the Application of Biology and Medicine: Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine (ETS No. 164) https://www.coe.int/en/web/conventions/full-list?module=treaty-detail&treatynum=164 (forbidding the creation of embryos for research purposes only, and suggests embryos in vitro have protections.); Also see Drabiak-Syed B. K. (2013). New President, New Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research Policy: Comparative International Perspectives and Embryonic Stem Cell Research Laws in France.  Biotechnology Law Report ,  32 (6), 349–356. https://doi.org/10.1089/blr.2013.9865

[45] Rendtorff, J.D., Kemp, P. (2019). Four Ethical Principles in European Bioethics and Biolaw: Autonomy, Dignity, Integrity and Vulnerability. In: Valdés, E., Lecaros, J. (eds) Biolaw and Policy in the Twenty-First Century. International Library of Ethics, Law, and the New Medicine, vol 78. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-05903-3_3

[46] Tomuschat, C., Currie, D. P., Kommers, D. P., & Kerr, R. (Trans.). (1949, May 23). Basic law for the Federal Republic of Germany. https://www.btg-bestellservice.de/pdf/80201000.pdf

[47] Regulation of Stem Cell Research in Germany . Eurostemcell. (2017, April 26). https://www.eurostemcell.org/regulation-stem-cell-research-germany

[48] Regulation of Stem Cell Research in Finland . Eurostemcell. (2017, April 26). https://www.eurostemcell.org/regulation-stem-cell-research-finland

[49] Regulation of Stem Cell Research in Spain . Eurostemcell. (2017, April 26). https://www.eurostemcell.org/regulation-stem-cell-research-spain

[50] Some sources to consider regarding ethics models or regulatory oversights of other cultures not covered:

Kara MA. Applicability of the principle of respect for autonomy: the perspective of Turkey. J Med Ethics. 2007 Nov;33(11):627-30. doi: 10.1136/jme.2006.017400. PMID: 17971462; PMCID: PMC2598110.

Ugarte, O. N., & Acioly, M. A. (2014). The principle of autonomy in Brazil: one needs to discuss it ...  Revista do Colegio Brasileiro de Cirurgioes ,  41 (5), 374–377. https://doi.org/10.1590/0100-69912014005013

Bharadwaj, A., & Glasner, P. E. (2012). Local cells, global science: The rise of embryonic stem cell research in India . Routledge.

For further research on specific European countries regarding ethical and regulatory framework, we recommend this database: Regulation of Stem Cell Research in Europe . Eurostemcell. (2017, April 26). https://www.eurostemcell.org/regulation-stem-cell-research-europe   

[51] Klitzman, R. (2006). Complications of culture in obtaining informed consent. The American Journal of Bioethics, 6(1), 20–21. https://doi.org/10.1080/15265160500394671 see also: Ekmekci, P. E., & Arda, B. (2017). Interculturalism and Informed Consent: Respecting Cultural Differences without Breaching Human Rights.  Cultura (Iasi, Romania) ,  14 (2), 159–172.; For why trust is important in research, see also: Gray, B., Hilder, J., Macdonald, L., Tester, R., Dowell, A., & Stubbe, M. (2017). Are research ethics guidelines culturally competent?  Research Ethics ,  13 (1), 23-41.  https://doi.org/10.1177/1747016116650235

[52] The Qur'an  (M. Khattab, Trans.). (1965). Al-Mu’minun, 23: 12-14. https://quran.com/23

[53] Lenfest, Y. (2017, December 8). Islam and the beginning of human life . Bill of Health. https://blog.petrieflom.law.harvard.edu/2017/12/08/islam-and-the-beginning-of-human-life/

[54] Aksoy, S. (2005). Making regulations and drawing up legislation in Islamic countries under conditions of uncertainty, with special reference to embryonic stem cell research. Journal of Medical Ethics , 31: 399-403.; see also: Mahmoud, Azza. "Islamic Bioethics: National Regulations and Guidelines of Human Stem Cell Research in the Muslim World." Master's thesis, Chapman University, 2022. https://doi.org/10.36837/ chapman.000386

[55] Rashid, R. (2022). When does Ensoulment occur in the Human Foetus. Journal of the British Islamic Medical Association , 12 (4). ISSN 2634 8071. https://www.jbima.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/2-Ethics-3_-Ensoulment_Rafaqat.pdf.

[56] Sivaraman, M. & Noor, S. (2017). Ethics of embryonic stem cell research according to Buddhist, Hindu, Catholic, and Islamic religions: perspective from Malaysia. Asian Biomedicine,8(1) 43-52.  https://doi.org/10.5372/1905-7415.0801.260

[57] Jafari, M., Elahi, F., Ozyurt, S. & Wrigley, T. (2007). 4. Religious Perspectives on Embryonic Stem Cell Research. In K. Monroe, R. Miller & J. Tobis (Ed.),  Fundamentals of the Stem Cell Debate: The Scientific, Religious, Ethical, and Political Issues  (pp. 79-94). Berkeley: University of California Press.  https://escholarship.org/content/qt9rj0k7s3/qt9rj0k7s3_noSplash_f9aca2e02c3777c7fb76ea768ba458f0.pdf https://doi.org/10.1525/9780520940994-005

[58] Lecso, P. A. (1991). The Bodhisattva Ideal and Organ Transplantation.  Journal of Religion and Health ,  30 (1), 35–41. http://www.jstor.org/stable/27510629 ; Bodhisattva, S. (n.d.). The Key of Becoming a Bodhisattva . A Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life. http://www.buddhism.org/Sutras/2/BodhisattvaWay.htm

[59] There is no explicit religious reference to when life begins or how to conduct research that interacts with the concept of life. However, these are relevant verses pertaining to how the fetus is viewed. (( King James Bible . (1999). Oxford University Press. (original work published 1769))

Jerimiah 1: 5 “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee…”

In prophet Jerimiah’s insight, God set him apart as a person known before childbirth, a theme carried within the Psalm of David.

Psalm 139: 13-14 “…Thou hast covered me in my mother's womb. I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made…”

These verses demonstrate David’s respect for God as an entity that would know of all man’s thoughts and doings even before birth.

[60] It should be noted that abortion is not supported as well.

[61] The Vatican. (1987, February 22). Instruction on Respect for Human Life in Its Origin and on the Dignity of Procreation Replies to Certain Questions of the Day . Congregation For the Doctrine of the Faith. https://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_19870222_respect-for-human-life_en.html

[62] The Vatican. (2000, August 25). Declaration On the Production and the Scientific and Therapeutic Use of Human Embryonic Stem Cells . Pontifical Academy for Life. https://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_academies/acdlife/documents/rc_pa_acdlife_doc_20000824_cellule-staminali_en.html ; Ohara, N. (2003). Ethical Consideration of Experimentation Using Living Human Embryos: The Catholic Church’s Position on Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research and Human Cloning. Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology . Retrieved from https://article.imrpress.com/journal/CEOG/30/2-3/pii/2003018/77-81.pdf.

[63] Smith, G. A. (2022, May 23). Like Americans overall, Catholics vary in their abortion views, with regular mass attenders most opposed . Pew Research Center. https://www.pewresearch.org/short-reads/2022/05/23/like-americans-overall-catholics-vary-in-their-abortion-views-with-regular-mass-attenders-most-opposed/

[64] Rosner, F., & Reichman, E. (2002). Embryonic stem cell research in Jewish law. Journal of halacha and contemporary society , (43), 49–68.; Jafari, M., Elahi, F., Ozyurt, S. & Wrigley, T. (2007). 4. Religious Perspectives on Embryonic Stem Cell Research. In K. Monroe, R. Miller & J. Tobis (Ed.),  Fundamentals of the Stem Cell Debate: The Scientific, Religious, Ethical, and Political Issues  (pp. 79-94). Berkeley: University of California Press.  https://escholarship.org/content/qt9rj0k7s3/qt9rj0k7s3_noSplash_f9aca2e02c3777c7fb76ea768ba458f0.pdf https://doi.org/10.1525/9780520940994-005

[65] Schenker J. G. (2008). The beginning of human life: status of embryo. Perspectives in Halakha (Jewish Religious Law).  Journal of assisted reproduction and genetics ,  25 (6), 271–276. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10815-008-9221-6

[66] Ruttenberg, D. (2020, May 5). The Torah of Abortion Justice (annotated source sheet) . Sefaria. https://www.sefaria.org/sheets/234926.7?lang=bi&with=all&lang2=en

[67] Jafari, M., Elahi, F., Ozyurt, S. & Wrigley, T. (2007). 4. Religious Perspectives on Embryonic Stem Cell Research. In K. Monroe, R. Miller & J. Tobis (Ed.),  Fundamentals of the Stem Cell Debate: The Scientific, Religious, Ethical, and Political Issues  (pp. 79-94). Berkeley: University of California Press.  https://escholarship.org/content/qt9rj0k7s3/qt9rj0k7s3_noSplash_f9aca2e02c3777c7fb76ea768ba458f0.pdf https://doi.org/10.1525/9780520940994-005

[68] Gert, B. (2007). Common morality: Deciding what to do . Oxford Univ. Press.

[69] World Medical Association (2013). World Medical Association Declaration of Helsinki: ethical principles for medical research involving human subjects. JAMA , 310(20), 2191–2194. https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.2013.281053 Declaration of Helsinki – WMA – The World Medical Association .; see also: National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research. (1979).  The Belmont report: Ethical principles and guidelines for the protection of human subjects of research . U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  https://www.hhs.gov/ohrp/regulations-and-policy/belmont-report/read-the-belmont-report/index.html

[70] Zakarin Safier, L., Gumer, A., Kline, M., Egli, D., & Sauer, M. V. (2018). Compensating human subjects providing oocytes for stem cell research: 9-year experience and outcomes.  Journal of assisted reproduction and genetics ,  35 (7), 1219–1225. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10815-018-1171-z https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6063839/ see also: Riordan, N. H., & Paz Rodríguez, J. (2021). Addressing concerns regarding associated costs, transparency, and integrity of research in recent stem cell trial. Stem Cells Translational Medicine , 10 (12), 1715–1716. https://doi.org/10.1002/sctm.21-0234

[71] Klitzman, R., & Sauer, M. V. (2009). Payment of egg donors in stem cell research in the USA.  Reproductive biomedicine online ,  18 (5), 603–608. https://doi.org/10.1016/s1472-6483(10)60002-8

[72] Krosin, M. T., Klitzman, R., Levin, B., Cheng, J., & Ranney, M. L. (2006). Problems in comprehension of informed consent in rural and peri-urban Mali, West Africa.  Clinical trials (London, England) ,  3 (3), 306–313. https://doi.org/10.1191/1740774506cn150oa

[73] Veatch, Robert M.  Hippocratic, Religious, and Secular Medical Ethics: The Points of Conflict . Georgetown University Press, 2012.

[74] Msoroka, M. S., & Amundsen, D. (2018). One size fits not quite all: Universal research ethics with diversity.  Research Ethics ,  14 (3), 1-17.  https://doi.org/10.1177/1747016117739939

[75] Pirzada, N. (2022). The Expansion of Turkey’s Medical Tourism Industry.  Voices in Bioethics ,  8 . https://doi.org/10.52214/vib.v8i.9894

[76] Stem Cell Tourism: False Hope for Real Money . Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI). (2023). https://hsci.harvard.edu/stem-cell-tourism , See also: Bissassar, M. (2017). Transnational Stem Cell Tourism: An ethical analysis.  Voices in Bioethics ,  3 . https://doi.org/10.7916/vib.v3i.6027

[77] Song, P. (2011) The proliferation of stem cell therapies in post-Mao China: problematizing ethical regulation,  New Genetics and Society , 30:2, 141-153, DOI:  10.1080/14636778.2011.574375

[78] Dajani, R. (2014). Jordan’s stem-cell law can guide the Middle East.  Nature  510, 189. https://doi.org/10.1038/510189a

[79] International Society for Stem Cell Research. (2024). Standards in stem cell research . International Society for Stem Cell Research. https://www.isscr.org/guidelines/5-standards-in-stem-cell-research

[80] Benjamin, R. (2013). People’s science bodies and rights on the Stem Cell Frontier . Stanford University Press.

Mifrah Hayath

SM Candidate Harvard Medical School, MS Biotechnology Johns Hopkins University

Olivia Bowers

MS Bioethics Columbia University (Disclosure: affiliated with Voices in Bioethics)

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  • Published: 13 May 2024

Sexual and reproductive health implementation research in humanitarian contexts: a scoping review

  • Alexandra Norton 1 &
  • Hannah Tappis 2  

Reproductive Health volume  21 , Article number:  64 ( 2024 ) Cite this article

85 Accesses

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Meeting the health needs of crisis-affected populations is a growing challenge, with 339 million people globally in need of humanitarian assistance in 2023. Given one in four people living in humanitarian contexts are women and girls of reproductive age, sexual and reproductive health care is considered as essential health service and minimum standard for humanitarian response. Despite growing calls for increased investment in implementation research in humanitarian settings, guidance on appropriate methods and analytical frameworks is limited.

A scoping review was conducted to examine the extent to which implementation research frameworks have been used to evaluate sexual and reproductive health interventions in humanitarian settings. Peer-reviewed papers published from 2013 to 2022 were identified through relevant systematic reviews and a literature search of Pubmed, Embase, PsycInfo, CINAHL and Global Health databases. Papers that presented primary quantitative or qualitative data pertaining to a sexual and reproductive health intervention in a humanitarian setting were included.

Seven thousand thirty-six unique records were screened for inclusion, and 69 papers met inclusion criteria. Of these, six papers explicitly described the use of an implementation research framework, three citing use of the Consolidated Framework for Implementation Research. Three additional papers referenced other types of frameworks used in their evaluation. Factors cited across all included studies as helping the intervention in their presence or hindering in their absence were synthesized into the following Consolidated Framework for Implementation Research domains: Characteristics of Systems, Outer Setting, Inner Setting, Characteristics of Individuals, Intervention Characteristics, and Process.

This review found a wide range of methodologies and only six of 69 studies using an implementation research framework, highlighting an opportunity for standardization to better inform the evidence for and delivery of sexual and reproductive health interventions in humanitarian settings. Increased use of implementation research frameworks such as a modified Consolidated Framework for Implementation Research could work toward both expanding the evidence base and increasing standardization.

Plain English summary

Three hundred thirty-nine million people globally were in need of humanitarian assistance in 2023, and meeting the health needs of crisis-affected populations is a growing challenge. One in four people living in humanitarian contexts are women and girls of reproductive age, and provision of sexual and reproductive health care is considered to be essential within a humanitarian response. Implementation research can help to better understand how real-world contexts affect health improvement efforts. Despite growing calls for increased investment in implementation research in humanitarian settings, guidance on how best to do so is limited. This scoping review was conducted to examine the extent to which implementation research frameworks have been used to evaluate sexual and reproductive health interventions in humanitarian settings. Of 69 papers that met inclusion criteria for the review, six of them explicitly described the use of an implementation research framework. Three used the Consolidated Framework for Implementation Research, a theory-based framework that can guide implementation research. Three additional papers referenced other types of frameworks used in their evaluation. This review summarizes how factors relevant to different aspects of implementation within the included papers could have been organized using the Consolidated Framework for Implementation Research. The findings from this review highlight an opportunity for standardization to better inform the evidence for and delivery of sexual and reproductive health interventions in humanitarian settings. Increased use of implementation research frameworks such as a modified Consolidated Framework for Implementation Research could work toward both expanding the evidence base and increasing standardization.

Peer Review reports

Over the past few decades, the field of public health implementation research (IR) has grown as a means by which the real-world conditions affecting health improvement efforts can be better understood. Peters et al. put forward the following broad definition of IR for health: “IR is the scientific inquiry into questions concerning implementation – the act of carrying an intention into effect, which in health research can be policies, programmes, or individual practices (collectively called interventions)” [ 1 ].

As IR emphasizes real-world circumstances, the context within which a health intervention is delivered is a core consideration. However, much IR implemented to date has focused on higher-resource settings, with many proposed frameworks developed with particular utility for a higher-income setting [ 2 ]. In recognition of IR’s potential to increase evidence across a range of settings, there have been numerous reviews of the use of IR in lower-resource settings as well as calls for broader use [ 3 , 4 ]. There have also been more focused efforts to modify various approaches and frameworks to strengthen the relevance of IR to low- and middle-income country settings (LMICs), such as the work by Means et al. to adapt a specific IR framework for increased utility in LMICs [ 2 ].

Within LMIC settings, the centrality of context to a health intervention’s impact is of particular relevance in humanitarian settings, which present a set of distinct implementation challenges [ 5 ]. Humanitarian responses to crisis situations operate with limited resources, under potential security concerns, and often under pressure to relieve acute suffering and need [ 6 ]. Given these factors, successful implementation of a particular health intervention may require different qualities than those that optimize intervention impact under more stable circumstances [ 7 ]. Despite increasing recognition of the need for expanded evidence of health interventions in humanitarian settings, the evidence base remains limited [ 8 ]. Furthermore, despite its potential utility, there is not standardized guidance on IR in humanitarian settings, nor are there widely endorsed recommendations for the frameworks best suited to analyze implementation in these settings.

Sexual and reproductive health (SRH) is a core aspect of the health sector response in humanitarian settings [ 9 ]. Yet, progress in addressing SRH needs has lagged far behind other services because of challenges related to culture and ideology, financing constraints, lack of data and competing priorities [ 10 ]. The Minimum Initial Service Package (MISP) for SRH in Crisis Situations is the international standard for the minimum set of SRH services that should be implemented in all crisis situations [ 11 ]. However, as in other areas of health, there is need for expanded evidence for planning and implementation of SRH interventions in humanitarian settings. Recent systematic reviews of SRH in humanitarian settings have focused on the effectiveness of interventions and service delivery strategies, as well as factors affecting utilization, but have not detailed whether IR frameworks were used [ 12 , 13 , 14 , 15 ]. There have also been recent reviews examining IR frameworks used in various settings and research areas, but none have explicitly focused on humanitarian settings [ 2 , 16 ].

Given the need for an expanded evidence base for SRH interventions in humanitarian settings and the potential for IR to be used to expand the available evidence, a scoping review was undertaken. This scoping review sought to identify IR approaches that have been used in the last ten years to evaluate SRH interventions in humanitarian settings.

This review also sought to shed light on whether there is a need for a common framework to guide research design, analysis, and reporting for SRH interventions in humanitarian settings and if so, if there are any established frameworks already in use that would be fit-for-purpose or could be tailored to meet this need.

The Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) extension for scoping reviews was utilized to guide the elements of this review [ 17 ]. The review protocol was retrospectively registered with the Open Science Framework ( https://osf.io/b5qtz ).

Search strategy

A two-fold search strategy was undertaken for this review, which covered the last 10 years (2013–2022). First, recent systematic reviews pertaining to research or evaluation of SRH interventions in humanitarian settings were identified through keyword searches on PubMed and Google Scholar. Four relevant systematic reviews were identified [ 12 , 13 , 14 , 15 ] Table 1 .

Second, a literature search mirroring these reviews was conducted to identify relevant papers published since the completion of searches for the most recent review (April 2017). Additional file 1 includes the search terms that were used in the literature search [see Additional file 1 ].

The literature search was conducted for papers published from April 2017 to December 2022 in the databases that were searched in one or more of the systematic reviews: PubMed, Embase, PsycInfo, CINAHL and Global Health. Searches were completed in January 2023 Table 2 .

Two reviewers screened each identified study for alignment with inclusion criteria. Studies in the four systematic reviews identified were considered potentially eligible if published during the last 10 years. These papers then underwent full-text review to confirm satisfaction of all inclusion criteria, as inclusion criteria were similar but not fully aligned across the four reviews.

Literature search results were exported into a citation manager (Covidence), duplicates were removed, and a step-wise screening process for inclusion was applied. First, all papers underwent title and abstract screening. The remaining papers after abstract screening then underwent full-text review to confirm satisfaction of all inclusion criteria. Title and abstract screening as well as full-text review was conducted independently by both authors; disagreements after full-text review were resolved by consensus.

Data extraction and synthesis

The following content areas were summarized in Microsoft Excel for each paper that met inclusion criteria: publication details including author, year, country, setting [rural, urban, camp, settlement], population [refugees, internally displaced persons, general crisis-affected], crisis type [armed conflict, natural disaster], crisis stage [acute, chronic], study design, research methods, SRH intervention, and intervention target population [specific beneficiaries of the intervention within the broader population]; the use of an IR framework; details regarding the IR framework, how it was used, and any rationale given for the framework used; factors cited as impacting SRH interventions, either positively or negatively; and other key findings deemed relevant to this review.

As the focus of this review was on the approach taken for SRH intervention research and evaluation, the quality of the studies themselves was not assessed.

Twenty papers underwent full-text review due to their inclusion in one or more of the four systematic reviews and meeting publication date inclusion criteria. The literature search identified 7,016 unique papers. After full-text screening, 69 met all inclusion criteria and were included in the review. Figure  1 illustrates the search strategy and screening process.

figure 1

Flow chart of paper identification

Papers published in each of the 10 years of the review timeframe (2013–2022) were included. 29% of the papers originated from the first five years of the time frame considered for this review, with the remaining 71% papers coming from the second half. Characteristics of included publications, including geographic location, type of humanitarian crisis, and type of SRH intervention, are presented in Table  3 .

A wide range of study designs and methods were used across the papers, with both qualitative and quantitative studies well represented. Twenty-six papers were quantitative evaluations [ 18 , 19 , 20 , 21 , 22 , 23 , 24 , 25 , 26 , 27 , 28 , 29 , 30 , 31 , 32 , 33 , 34 , 35 , 36 , 37 , 38 , 39 , 40 , 41 , 42 , 43 ], 17 were qualitative [ 44 , 45 , 46 , 47 , 48 , 49 , 50 , 51 , 52 , 53 , 54 , 55 , 56 , 57 , 58 , 59 , 60 ], and 26 used mixed methods [ 61 , 62 , 63 , 64 , 65 , 66 , 67 , 68 , 69 , 70 , 71 , 72 , 73 , 74 , 75 , 76 , 77 , 78 , 79 , 80 , 81 , 82 , 83 , 84 , 85 , 86 ]. Within the quantitative evaluations, 15 were observational, while five were quasi-experimental, five were randomized controlled trials, and one was an economic evaluation. Study designs as classified by the authors of this review are summarized in Table  4 .

Six papers (9%) explicitly cited use of an IR framework. Three of these papers utilized the Consolidated Framework for Implementation Research (CFIR) [ 51 , 65 , 70 ]. The CFIR is a commonly used determinant framework that—in its originally proposed form in 2009—is comprised of five domains, each of which has constructs to further categorize factors that impact implementation. The CFIR domains were identified as core content areas influencing the effectiveness of implementation, and the constructs within each domain are intended to provide a range of options for researchers to select from to “guide diagnostic assessments of implementation context, evaluate implementation progress, and help explain findings.” [ 87 ] To allow for consistent terminology throughout this review, the original 2009 CFIR domains and constructs are used.

Guan et al. conducted a mixed methods study to assess the feasibility and effectiveness of a neonatal hepatitis B immunization program in a conflict-affected rural region of Myanmar. Guan et al. report mapping data onto the CFIR as a secondary analysis step. They describe that “CFIR was used as a comprehensive meta-theoretical framework to examine the implementation of the Hepatitis B Virus vaccination program,” and implementation themes from multiple study data sources (interviews, observations, examination of monitoring materials) were mapped onto CFIR constructs. They report their results in two phases – Pre-implementation training and community education, and Implementation – with both anchored in themes that they had mapped onto CFIR domains and constructs. All but six constructs were included in their analysis, with a majority summarized in a table and key themes explored further in the narrative text. They specify that most concerns were identified within the Outer Setting and Process domains, while elements identified within the Inner Setting domain provided strength to the intervention and helped mitigate against barriers [ 70 ].

Sarker et al. conducted a qualitative study to assess provision of maternal, newborn and child health services to Rohingya refugees residing in camps in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. They cite using CFIR as a guide for thematic analysis, applying it after a process of inductive and deductive coding to index these codes into the CFIR domains. They utilized three of the five CFIR domains (Outer Setting, Inner Setting, and Process), stating that the remaining two domains (Intervention Characteristics and Characteristics of Individuals) were not relevant to their analysis. They then proposed two additional CFIR domains, Context and Security, for use in humanitarian contexts. In contrast to Guan et al., CFIR constructs are not used nor mentioned by Sarker et al., with content under each domain instead synthesized as challenges and potential solutions. Regarding the CFIR, Sarker et al. write, “The CFIR guided us for interpretative coding and creating the challenges and possible solutions into groups for further clarification of the issues related to program delivery in a humanitarian crisis setting.” [ 51 ]

Sami et al. conducted a mixed methods case study to assess the implementation of a package of neonatal interventions at health facilities within refugee and internally displaced persons camps in South Sudan. They reference use of the CFIR earlier in the study than Sarker et al., basing their guides for semi-structured focus group discussions on the CFIR framework. They similarly reference a general use of the CFIR framework as they conducted thematic analysis. Constructs are referenced once, but they do not specify whether their application of the CFIR framework included use of domains, constructs, or both. This may be in part because they then applied an additional framework, the World Health Organization (WHO) Health System Framework, to present their findings. They describe a nested approach to their use of these frameworks: “Exploring these [CFIR] constructs within the WHO Health Systems Framework can identify specific entry points to improve the implementation of newborn interventions at critical health system building blocks.” [ 65 ]

Three papers cite use of different IR frameworks. Bolan et al. utilized the Theoretical Domains Framework in their mixed methods feasibility study and pilot cluster randomized trial evaluating pilot use of the Safe Delivery App by maternal and newborn health workers providing basic emergency obstetric and newborn care in facilities in the conflict-affected Maniema province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). They used the Theroetical Domains Framework in designing interview questions, and further used it as the coding framework for their analysis. Similar to the CFIR, the Theoretical Domains Framework is a determinant framework that consists of domains, each of which then includes constructs. Bolan et al. utilized the Theoretical Domains Framework at the construct level in interview question development and at the domain level in their analysis, mapping interview responses to eight of the 14 domains [ 83 ]. Berg et al. report using an “exploratory design guided by the principles of an evaluation framework” developed by the Medical Research Council to analyze the implementation process, mechanisms of impact, and outcomes of a three-pillar training intervention to improve maternal and neonatal healthcare in the conflict-affected South Kivu province of the DRC [ 67 , 88 ]. Select components of this evaluation framework were used to guide deductive analysis of focus group discussions and in-depth interviews [ 67 ]. In their study of health workers’ knowledge and attitudes toward newborn health interventions in South Sudan, before and after training and supply provision, Sami et al. report use of the Conceptual Framework of the Role of Attitudes in Evidence-Based Practice Implementation in their analysis process. The framework was used to group codes following initial inductive coding analysis of in-depth interviews [ 72 ].

Three other papers cite use of specific frameworks in their intervention evaluation [ 19 , 44 , 76 ]. As a characteristic of IR is the use of an explicit framework to guide the research, the use of the frameworks in these three papers meets the intention of IR and serves the purpose that an IR framework would have in strengthening the analytical rigor. Castle et al. cite use of their program’s theory of change as a framework for a mixed methods evaluation of the provision of family planning services and more specifically uptake of long-acting reversible contraception use in the DRC. They describe use of the theory of change to “enhance effectiveness of [long-acting reversible contraception] access and uptake.” [ 76 ] Thommesen et al. cite use of the AAAQ (Availability, Accessibility, Acceptability and Quality) framework in their qualitative study assessing midwifery services provided to pregnant women in Afghanistan. This framework is focused on the “underlying elements needed for attainment of optimum standard of health care,” but the authors used it in this paper to evaluate facilitators and barriers to women accessing midwifery services [ 44 ]. Jarrett et al. cite use of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Guidelines for Evaluating Public Health Surveillance Systems to explore the characteristics of a population mobility, mortality and birth surveillance system in South Kivu, DRC. Use of these CDC guidelines is cited as one of four study objectives, and commentary is included in the Results section pertaining to each criteria within these guidelines, although more detail regarding use of these guidelines or the authors’ experience with their use in the study is not provided [ 19 ].

Overall, 22 of the 69 papers either explicitly or implicitly identified IR as relevant to their work. Nineteen papers include a focus on feasibility (seven of which did not otherwise identify the importance of exploring questions concerning implementation), touching on a common outcome of interest in implementation research [ 89 ].

While a majority of papers did not explicitly or implicitly use an IR framework to evaluate their SRH intervention of focus, most identified factors that facilitated implementation when they were present or served as a barrier when absent. Sixty cite factors that served as facilitators and 49 cite factors that served as barriers, with just three not citing either. Fifty-nine distinct factors were identified across the papers.

Three of the six studies that explicitly used an IR framework used the CFIR, and the CFIR is the only IR framework that was used by multiple studies. As previously mentioned, Means et al. put forth an adaptation of the CFIR to increase its relevance in LMIC settings, proposing a sixth domain (Characteristics of Systems) and 11 additional constructs [ 2 ]. Using the expanded domains and constructs as proposed by Means et al., the 59 factors cited by papers in this review were thematically grouped into the six domains: Characteristics of Systems, Outer Setting, Inner Setting, Characteristics of Individuals, Intervention Characteristics, and Process. Within each domain, alignment with CFIR constructs was assessed for, and alignment was found with 29 constructs: eight of Means et al.’s 11 constructs, and 21 of the 39 standard CFIR constructs. Three factors did not align with any construct (all fitting within the Outer Setting domain), and 14 aligned with a construct label but not the associated definition. Table 5 synthesizes the mapping of factors affecting SRH intervention implementation to CFIR domains and constructs, with the construct appearing in italics if it is considered to align with that factor by label but not by definition.

Table 6 lists the CFIR constructs that were not found to have alignment with any factor cited by the papers in this review.

This scoping review sought to assess how IR frameworks have been used to bolster the evidence base for SRH interventions in humanitarian settings, and it revealed that IR frameworks, or an explicit IR approach, are rarely used. All four of the systematic reviews identified with a focus on SRH in humanitarian settings articulate the need for more research examining the effectiveness of SRH interventions in humanitarian settings, with two specifically citing a need for implementation research/science [ 12 , 13 ]. The distribution of papers across the timeframe included in this review does suggest that more research on SRH interventions for crisis-affected populations is taking place, as a majority of relevant papers were published in the second half of the review period. The papers included a wide range of methodologies, which reflect the differing research questions and contexts being evaluated. However, it also invites the question of whether there should be more standardization of outcomes measured or frameworks used to guide analysis and to facilitate increased comparison, synthesis and application across settings.

Three of the six papers that used an IR framework utilized the CFIR. Guan et al. used the CFIR at both a domain and construct level, Sarker et al. used the CFIR at the domain level, and Sami et al. did not specify which CFIR elements were used in informing the focus group discussion guide [ 51 , 65 , 70 ]. It is challenging to draw strong conclusions about the applicability of CFIR in humanitarian settings based on the minimal use of CFIR and IR frameworks within the papers reviewed, although Guan et al. provides a helpful model for how analysis can be structured around CFIR domains and constructs. It is worth considering that the minimal use of IR frameworks, and more specifically CFIR constructs, could be in part because that level of prescriptive categorization does not allow for enough fluidity in humanitarian settings. It also raises questions about the appropriate degree of standardization to pursue for research done in these settings.

The mapping of factors affecting SRH intervention implementation provides an example of how a modified CFIR framework could be used for IR in humanitarian contexts. This mapping exercise found factors that mapped to all five of the original CFIR domains as well as the sixth domain proposed by Means et al. All factors fit well within the definition for the selected domain, indicating an appropriate degree of fit between these existing domains and the factors identified as impacting SRH interventions in humanitarian settings. On a construct level, however, the findings were more variable, with one-quarter of factors not fully aligning with any construct. Furthermore, over 40% of the CFIR constructs (including the additional constructs from Means et al.) were not found to align with any factors cited by the papers in this review, also demonstrating some disconnect between the parameters posed by the CFIR constructs and the factors cited as relevant in a humanitarian context.

It is worth noting that while the CFIR as proposed in 2009 was used in this assessment, as well as in the included papers which used the CFIR, an update was published in 2022. Following a review of CFIR use since its publication, the authors provide updates to construct names and definitions to “make the framework more applicable across a range of innovations and settings.” New constructs and subconstructs were also added, for a total of 48 constructs and 19 subconstructs across the five domains [ 90 ]. A CFIR Outcomes Addendum was also published in 2022, based on recommendations for the CFIR to add outcomes and intended to be used as a complement to the CFIR determinants framework [ 91 ]. These expansions to the CFIR framework may improve applicability of the CFIR in humanitarian settings. Several constructs added to the Outer Setting domain could be of particular utility – critical incidents, local attitudes, and local conditions, each of which could help account for unique challenges faced in contexts of crisis. Sub-constructs added within the Inner Setting domain that seek to clarify structural characteristics and available resources would also be of high utility based on mapping of the factors identified in this review to the original CFIR constructs. As outcomes were not formally included in the CFIR until the 2022 addendum, a separate assessment of implementation outcomes was not undertaken in this review. However, analysis of the factors cited by papers in this review as affecting implementation was derived from the full text of the papers and thus captures content relevant to implementation determinants that is contained within the outcomes.

Given the demonstrated need for additional flexibility within an IR framework for humanitarian contexts, while not a focus of this review, it is worth considering whether a different framework could provide a better fit than the CFIR. Other frameworks have differing points of emphasis that would create different opportunities for flexibility but that do not seem to resolve the challenges experienced in applying the CFIR to a humanitarian context. As one example, the EPIS (Exploration, Preparation, Implementation, Sustainment) Framework considers the impact of inner and outer context on each of four implementation phases; while the constructs within this framework are broader than the CFIR, an emphasis on the intervention characteristics is missing, a domain where stronger alignment within the CFIR is also needed [ 92 ]. Alternatively, the PRISM (Practical, Robust Implementation and Sustainability Model) framework is a determinant and evaluation framework that adds consideration of context factors to the RE-AIM (Reach, Effectiveness, Adoption, Implementation, Maintenance) outcomes framework. It has a stronger emphasis on intervention aspects, with sub-domains to account for both organization and patient perspectives within the intervention. While PRISM does include aspects of context, external environment considerations are less robust and intentionally less comprehensive in scope, which would not provide the degree of alignment possible between the Characteristics of Systems and Outer Setting CFIR domains for the considerations unique to humanitarian environments [ 93 ].

Reflecting on their experience with the CFIR, Sarker et al. indicate that it can be a “great asset” in both evaluating current work and developing future interventions. They also encourage future research of humanitarian health interventions to utilize the CFIR [ 51 ]. The other papers that used the CFIR do not specifically reflect on their experience utilizing it, referring more generally to having felt that it was a useful tool [ 65 , 70 ]. On their use of an evaluation framework, Berg et al. reflected that it lent useful structure and helped to identify aspects affecting implementation that otherwise would have gone un-noticed [ 67 ]. The remaining studies that utilized an IR framework did not specifically comment on their experience with its use [ 72 , 83 ]. While a formal IR framework was not engaged by other studies, a number cite a desire for IR to contribute further detail to their findings [ 21 , 37 ].

In their recommendations for strengthening the evidence base for humanitarian health interventions, Ager et al. speak to the need for “methodologic innovation” to develop methodologies with particular applicability in humanitarian settings [ 7 ]. As IR is not yet routinized for SRH interventions, this could be opportune timing for the use of a standardized IR framework to gauge its utility. Using an IR framework to assess factors influencing implementation of the MISP in initial stages of a humanitarian response, and interventions to support more comprehensive SRH service delivery in protracted crises, could lend further rigor and standardization to SRH evaluations, as well as inform strategies to improve MISP implementation over time. Based on categorizing factors identified by these papers as relevant for intervention evaluation, there does seem to be utility to a modified CFIR approach. Given the paucity of formal IR framework use within SRH literature, it would be worth conducting similar scoping exercises to assess for explicit use of IR frameworks within the evidence base for other health service delivery areas in humanitarian settings. In the interim, the recommended approach from this review for future IR on humanitarian health interventions would be a modified CFIR approach with domain-level standardization and flexibility for constructs that may standardize over time with more use. This would enable use of a common analytical framework and vocabulary at the domain level for stakeholders to describe interventions and the factors influencing the effectiveness of implementation, with constructs available to use and customize as most appropriate for specific contexts and interventions.

This review had a number of limitations. As this was a scoping review and a two-part search strategy was used, the papers summarized here may not be comprehensive of those written pertaining to SRH interventions over the past 10 years. Papers from 2013 to 2017 that would have met this scoping review’s inclusion criteria may have been omitted due to being excluded from the systematic reviews. The review was limited to papers available in English. Furthermore, this review did not assess the quality of the papers included or seek to assess the methodology used beyond examination of the use of an IR framework. It does, however, serve as a first step in assessing the extent to which calls for implementation research have been addressed, and identify entry points for strengthening the science and practice of SRH research in humanitarian settings.

With one in 23 people worldwide in need of humanitarian assistance, and financing required for response plans at an all-time high, the need for evidence to guide resource allocation and programming for SRH in humanitarian settings is as important as ever [ 94 ]. Recent research agenda setting initiatives and strategies to advance health in humanitarian settings call for increased investment in implementation research—with priorities ranging from research on effective strategies for expanding access to a full range of contraceptive options to integrating mental health and psychosocial support into SRH programming to capturing accurate and actionable data on maternal and perinatal mortality in a wide range of acute and protracted emergency contexts [ 95 , 96 ]. To truly advance guidance in these areas, implementation research will need to be conducted across diverse humanitarian settings, with clear and consistent documentation of both intervention characteristics and outcomes, as well as contextual and programmatic factors affecting implementation.

Conclusions

Implementation research has potential to increase impact of health interventions particularly in crisis-affected settings where flexibility, adaptability and context-responsive approaches are highlighted as cornerstones of effective programming. There remains significant opportunity for standardization of research in the humanitarian space, with one such opportunity occurring through increased utilization of IR frameworks such as a modified CFIR approach. Investing in more robust sexual and reproductive health research in humanitarian contexts can enrich insights available to guide programming and increase transferability of learning across settings.

Availability of data and materials

The datasets analyzed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

Abbreviations

Availability, Accessibility, Acceptability and Quality

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Consolidated Framework for Implementation Research

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Exploration, Preparation, Implementation, Sustainment

  • Implementation research

Low and middle income country

Minimum Initial Service Package

Practical, Robust Implementation and Sustainability Model

Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses

Reach, Effectiveness, Adoption, Implementation, Maintenance

  • Sexual and reproductive health

World Health Organization

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2023 summer warmth unparalleled over the past 2,000 years

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Including an exceptionally warm Northern Hemisphere (NH) summer 1 ,2 , 2023 has been reported as the hottest year on record 3-5 . Contextualizing recent anthropogenic warming against past natural variability is nontrivial, however, because the sparse 19 th century meteorological records tend to be too warm 6 . Here, we combine observed and reconstructed June-August (JJA) surface air temperatures to show that 2023 was the warmest NH extra-tropical summer over the past 2000 years exceeding the 95% confidence range of natural climate variability by more than half a degree Celsius. Comparison of the 2023 JJA warming against the coldest reconstructed summer in 536 CE reveals a maximum range of pre-Anthropocene-to-2023 temperatures of 3.93°C. Although 2023 is consistent with a greenhouse gases-induced warming trend 7 that is amplified by an unfolding El Niño event 8 , this extreme emphasizes the urgency to implement international agreements for carbon emission reduction.

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    PubMed is a comprehensive database of biomedical literature from various sources, including MEDLINE, life science journals, and online books. You can search for citations, access full text content, and explore topics related to health, medicine, and biology. PubMed also provides advanced search options and tools for researchers and clinicians.

  4. JSTOR Home

    Harness the power of visual materials—explore more than 3 million images now on JSTOR. Enhance your scholarly research with underground newspapers, magazines, and journals. Explore collections in the arts, sciences, and literature from the world's leading museums, archives, and scholars. JSTOR is a digital library of academic journals ...

  5. The New England Journal of Medicine

    The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) is a weekly general medical journal that publishes new medical research and review articles, and editorial opinion on a wide variety of topics of ...

  6. Research articles

    A completely genetically encoded boronic-acid-containing designer enzyme was created and characterized using X-ray crystallography, high-resolution mass spectrometry and 11 B NMR spectroscopy ...

  7. Home

    As part of Springer Nature, SpringerLink delivers fast access to the depth and breadth of our online collection of journals, eBooks, reference works and protocols across a vast range of subject disciplines. SpringerLink is the reading platform of choice for hundreds of thousands of researchers worldwide. Find out how to publish your research ...

  8. Nature

    First published in 1869, Nature is the world's leading multidisciplinary science journal. Nature publishes the finest peer-reviewed research that drives ground-breaking discovery, and is read by ...

  9. Science

    Science is a leading outlet for scientific news, commentary, and cutting-edge research. Through its print and online incarnations, Science reaches an estimated worldwide readership of more than one million. Science 's authorship is global too, and its articles consistently rank among the world's most cited research. mission & scope.

  10. Research articles

    Article Open Access 17 May 2024 Association of OPRM1 rs1799971, HTR1B rs6296 and COMT rs4680 polymorphisms with clinical phenotype among women with fibromyalgia César Fernández-de-las-Peñas

  11. Home

    PubMed Central ® (PMC) is a free full-text archive of biomedical and life sciences journal literature at the U.S. National Institutes of Health's National Library of Medicine (NIH/NLM) ... Discover a digital archive of scholarly articles, spanning centuries of scientific research. User Guide Learn how to find and read articles of interest to ...

  12. Sage Journals: Your gateway to world-class journal research

    Sage empowers researchers, librarians and readers through: Gold and Green Open Access publishing options. Open access agreements. Author support and information. LEARN MORE. Explore the content of our microsites focusing on various topics from across all Sage journals. Subscription and open access journals from Sage, the world's leading ...

  13. Wiley Online Library

    One of the largest and most authoritative collections of online journals, books, and research resources, covering life, health, social, and physical sciences. Wiley Online Library | Scientific research articles, journals, books, and reference works

  14. Directory of Open Access Journals

    About the directory. DOAJ is a unique and extensive index of diverse open access journals from around the world, driven by a growing community, and is committed to ensuring quality content is freely available online for everyone. DOAJ is committed to keeping its services free of charge, including being indexed, and its data freely available.

  15. arXiv.org e-Print archive

    arXiv is a free distribution service and an open-access archive for nearly 2.4 million scholarly articles in the fields of physics, mathematics, computer science, quantitative biology, quantitative finance, statistics, electrical engineering and systems science, and economics. Materials on this site are not peer-reviewed by arXiv.

  16. Find a journal

    Elsevier Journal Finder helps you find journals that could be best suited for publishing your scientific article. Journal Finder uses smart search technology and field-of-research specific vocabularies to match your paper's abstract to scientific journals.

  17. Research & Politics: Sage Journals

    Research & Politics. Research & Politics (RAP) is a peer-reviewed, open access journal, which focusses on research in political science and related fields through open access publication of the very best cutting-edge research and policy analysis. View full journal description. This journal is a member of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE).

  18. Search

    With 160+ million publication pages, 25+ million researchers and 1+ million questions, this is where everyone can access science. You can use AND, OR, NOT, "" and () to specify your search ...

  19. The top 10 journal articles of 2020

    Students with high emotional intelligence get better grades and score higher on standardized tests, according to the research presented in this article in Psychological Bulletin (Vol. 146, No. 2). Researchers analyzed data from 158 studies representing more than 42,529 students—ranging in age from elementary school to college—from 27 countries.

  20. ResearchGate

    Access 160+ million publications and connect with 25+ million researchers. Join for free and gain visibility by uploading your research.

  21. A century of statistical Ecology

    ECOLOGY: AN IMPORTANT VENUE FOR STATISTICAL ECOLOGY. Ecology is a generalist journal. It publishes papers on diverse taxa across many biomes, addressing a wide variety of ecological questions. Papers focused on the development of ecological research methods have been central to Ecology's niche, dating back to the journal's inception.For example, in its third year, Ecology published a critique ...

  22. Journal Top 100

    Journal Top 100 - 2022. This collection highlights our most downloaded* research papers published in 2022. Featuring authors from around the world, these papers highlight valuable research from an ...

  23. Journal of Supply Chain Management

    Journal of Supply Chain Management (JSCM) is the go-to business logistics journal among supply chain management scholars. As an international SCM journal, we attract high-quality, high-impact empirical supply chain research. We welcome inter-disciplinary studies that test supply chain theory, use rigorous empirical methods, and enhance our understanding of global supply chains.

  24. Cultural Relativity and Acceptance of Embryonic Stem Cell Research

    Voices in Bioethics is currently seeking submissions on philosophical and practical topics, both current and timeless. Papers addressing access to healthcare, the bioethical implications of recent Supreme Court rulings, environmental ethics, data privacy, cybersecurity, law and bioethics, economics and bioethics, reproductive ethics, research ethics, and pediatric bioethics are sought.

  25. CORE

    Research Policy Adviser. Aggregation plays an increasingly essential role in maximising the long-term benefits of open access, helping to turn the promise of a 'research commons' into a reality. The aggregation services that CORE provides therefore make a very valuable contribution to the evolving open access environment in the UK.

  26. Sexual and reproductive health implementation research in humanitarian

    Background Meeting the health needs of crisis-affected populations is a growing challenge, with 339 million people globally in need of humanitarian assistance in 2023. Given one in four people living in humanitarian contexts are women and girls of reproductive age, sexual and reproductive health care is considered as essential health service and minimum standard for humanitarian response ...

  27. Electronics

    The challenge of denoising low-dose computed tomography (CT) has garnered significant research interest due to the detrimental impact of noise on CT image quality, impeding diagnostic accuracy and image-guided therapies. This paper introduces an innovative approach termed the Wavelet Domain Dual Forward Denoising Stream Network (WaveletDFDS-Net) to address this challenge.

  28. Geophysical Research Letters Call for Papers

    Geophysical Research Letters is a gold open access journal that publishes high-impact, innovative, and timely communications-length articles on major advances spanning all of the major geoscience disciplines. Papers should have broad and immediate implications meriting rapid decisions and high visibility.

  29. Flood of Fake Science Forces Multiple Journal Closures

    May 14, 2024 8:00 am ET. Text. Fake studies have flooded the publishers of top scientific journals, leading to thousands of retractions and millions of dollars in lost revenue. The biggest hit has ...

  30. 2023 summer warmth unparalleled over the past 2,000 years

    Here, we combine observed and reconstructed June-August (JJA) surface air temperatures to show that 2023 was the warmest NH extra-tropical summer over the past 2000 years exceeding the 95% ...