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This article is the authors' final version prior to publication in Trials, Volume 18, Issue 1, October 2017, Article number 503.

The published version is available at Copyright © Bonsu et al.


BACKGROUND: The conduct of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) in low-resource settings may present unique financial, logistic, and process-related challenges. Middle-income countries that have comparable disease burdens to low-income countries, but greater availability of resources, may be conducive settings for RCTs. Indeed, the country of Botswana is experiencing a rapid increase in the conduct of RCTs. Our objective was to explore the experiences of individuals conducting RCTs in Botswana to gain an understanding of the challenges and adaptive strategies to their work.

METHODS: We conducted in-depth interviews with 14 national and international individuals working on RCTs in Botswana. Participants included principal investigators, research coordinators, lab technicians, research assistants, and other healthcare professionals. Interviews were audiotaped, transcribed verbatim, and coded for thematic analysis.

RESULTS: Five primary themes were identified: ethics board relationships (including delays in the process); research staff management (including staff attrition and career development); study recruitment and retention (including the use of reimbursements); resource availability (including challenges accessing laboratory equipment); and capacity-building (including issues of exporting locally sourced samples). These themes were explored to discuss key challenges and adaptive strategies.

CONCLUSIONS: This study offers a first-hand account of individuals engaged in conducting RCTs in Botswana, a nation that is experiencing a rapid increase in research activities. Findings provide a foundational understanding for researchers in Botswana and trial managers in similar settings when planning RCTs so that the conduct of research does not outpace the ability to manage, support, and regulate it.

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