Social Sciences

Dr. Deborah Nyirenda, Post-Doctoral Social Scientist


I am a Post-Doctoral Social Scientist funded by the Global Health Bioethics Network and an Associate Research Group Head for Community Engagement & Bioethics. I have over 10 years experience of working in collaborative research projects on health systems, bioethics, and community engagement. Prior to this post, I completed a Ph.D. that focused on examining social interactions among research stakeholders and ethical issues in the context of community engagement in Malawi.

I hold a Masters’s Degree in International Public Health (with merit) from Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, UK which was funded by a competitive Scholarship award from the Commonwealth. My current research focuses on strengthening ethical community engagement/ Public and Patients Involvement in medical research conducted in the global south.


Current research projects
2019 to present, GHBN-Mawu Athu study: An investigation of approaches to enhance community engagement in global health research in low resource settings (Principal Investigator)

2020 to present, Wellcome Trust-Responsive dialogue to improve Public Engagement on AMR, (co-investigator)

2020 to present, NIHR-SARS-CoV-2 Infection, transmission dynamics and household impact in Malawi (co-investigator)

2020 to present, Bill & Melinda Gates-Post-mortem minimally invasive tissue sampling (MITS) to examine pulmonary histopathology and the immune landscape at single cell level in fatal COVID-19 in Malawian patients (Collaborator)

2020 to present, University of Liverpool, NIHR/CEIDR-Understanding choice, control and risk in community responses to the Covid-19 epidemic across the health divide to inform public health strategies in Malawi, (co-investigator)

2018 to present-Wellcome Trust, Healthy lives Malawi-Intergenerational cohort of chronic conditions (co-investigator)

Previous research projects

2015-2016, MLW-Perceptions of Research Bronchoscopy in Malawian Adults with Pulmonary Tuberculosis: A Cross-sectional Study (Co-investigator)

2014 to 2018, Wellcome Trust-Social Interactions among research stakeholders and ethical issues in the context of community engagement in Malawi

2014-2015, CDC-A qualitative study to assess the acceptability of logos for flu research program (Co-investigator)

2015-2017, MRF- An assessment of using ‘Theatre for Development’ to facilitate recognition of severe illnesses and appropriate treatment seeking behaviour in communities within the catchment areas of five primary health facilities that are implementing ETAT in Blantyre, Malawi (Co-investigator)

2012-2014, MRF- An assessment of a triage intervention in primary health centres and evaluation of a public engagement radio programme
2010-2011, MRF- An exploration of treatment seeking behaviour in response to Acute Bacterial Meningitis

Publications (

Nyirenda, D., Sariola, S., Kingori, P., Squire, B., Bandawe, C., Parker, M., & Desmond, N. (2020). Structural coercion in the context of community engagement in global health research conducted in a low resource setting in Africa. BMC Medical Ethics, 21(1), 90.

Saleh, S., Sambakunsi, H., Nyirenda, D., Kumwenda, M., Mortimer, K., Chinouya, M., 2020. Participant compensation in global health research: a case study. Int. Health 12, 524–532.

Israel-Ballard, K., Cohen, J., Mansen, K., Parker, M., Engmann, C., Kelley, M., Brooks, E., Chatzixiros, E., Clark, D., Grummer-Strawn, L., Hartmann, B., Kennedy, S., Kent, G., Mwangome, M., Nyirenda, D., Perrin, M.T., Picaud, J.-C., Reimers, P., Roest, J., Romero-Maldonado, S., Smith, J., Subrahmanian, P., Sunder-Plassmann, A., Weaver, G., Zambrano, P.A., (2019) Call to action for equitable access to human milk for vulnerable infants. Lancet Glob. Health 7, e1484–e1486.

Nyirenda D, Gooding K, Lora W, Kumwenda M, McMorrow M, et al. (2018) Complexities and dilemmas in community consultation on the design of a research project logo in Malawi. PLOS ONE 13(10): e0205737.

Nyirenda D, Gooding K, Sambakunsi R et al. (2018) Strengthening ethical community engagement in contemporary Malawi [version 1; referees: 1 approved]. Wellcome Open Res 2018, 3:115

Phiri M, Gooding K, Nyirenda D, Sambakunsi R, Kumwenda MK, Desmond N (2018) “Not just dogs, but rabid dogs”: tensions and conflicts amongst research volunteers in Malawi. Glob Bioeth. 2018;29(1):65-80. doi:10.1080/11287462.2018.1509925

Gooding K, Makwinja R, Nyirenda D, Vincent R, Sambakunsi R. (2018) Using theories of change to design monitoring and evaluation of community engagement in research: experiences from a research institute in Malawi [version 1; referees: 3 approved]. Wellcome Open Res 2018, 3:8 doi: 10.12688/wellcomeopenres.13790.1

Nyirenda D, Sariola S, Gooding K, Phiri M, Sambakunsi R, Moyo E, Bandawe C, Squire B, Desmond N. (2017) ‘We are the eyes and ears of researchers and community members’ Understanding the role of Community Advisory Groups to represent researchers and communities in Malawi. Developing World Bioethics Journal. 00:1-9.

McCallum A*, Nyirenda D*, Lora W, Khoo S, Sloan D, Mwandumba H, Desmond N, Davies G. (2016) Perceptions of Research Bronchoscopy in Malawian Adults with Pulmonary Tuberculosis: A Cross-sectional Study. PLos ONE. 11(4):p.1-12.

Nyirenda D, Makawa T, Chapita G, Mdala C, Nkolokosa M, O’byrne T, Desmond N, Heyderman, R. (2016) Public engagement in Malawi through a health-talk radio programme ‘Umoyo nkukambirana’: A mixed methods evaluation. Public Understanding of Science. 22(2): p.229.

Kumwenda M, Desmond N, Hart G, Choko A, Chipungu GA, Nyirenda D, et al. (2016) Treatment-Seeking for Tuberculosis-Suggestive Symptoms: A Reflection on the Role of Human Agency in the Context of Universal Health Coverage in Malawi. PLoS ONE. 11(10):p.eo165734.

Desmond N, Nyirenda D, Molyneux E, Mallewa M, Lalloo D, Heyderman R. (2013) Recognising and Treatment Seeking for Acute Bacterial Meningitis in Adults and Children in resource Poor Settings: A Qualitative Study. PLoS ONE.8(7):p1-7.