Dvora Yanow and Severine van Bommel: Dilemmas in Fieldwork and Research Ethics

Attention is growing worldwide to issues concerning the protection of human ‘subjects’ (or participants) in research. The US, Canada, the UK, Australia, and New Zealand all have state research ethics policies that mandate review of proposed research.

Organised by Knowledge Technology and Innovation, Philosophy, Strategic Communication

Mon 27 June 2016 13:00 to 17:00

Venue Forum, building number 102
Room C0759

Such review is implemented by committees operating under various names (e.g., Institutional Review Boards/US, Human Research Ethics Committees/Australia) on university campuses, in hospitals, and in other settings; other states around the world, including China and India, are themselves adopting ethics review practices. These policies apply not only to experimental research in medical fields and psychology, but also to other research designs across the social sciences; it is becoming increasingly difficult to conduct research without obtaining such approvals.  Indeed, journals are increasingly requiring ‘ethics approval’ evidence along with submitted manuscripts. This is leading to a renewed interest in research ethics.

'Ethics' is a proper field of philosophical inquiry and theorizing, and philosophy’s systematic ways of thinking can be helpful in thinking through the implications of one’s actions. At the same time, little is known, systematically, about the character of the ethical challenges facing researchers doing fieldwork—an interview-based project, some form of participant-observation/ ethnography, action research. The purpose of this workshop is to bring such researchers together to discuss some of the ethical challenges they/we have faced. We intend the session, in other words, to be grounded in actual research experiences - especially as in researching the topic, not only we have found no compendium of experience-based research ethics discussions, but a lot of this material is silenced except in the informal interstices of conference meetings - corridor chats, drinks at the bar, wherever colleagues ‘let their hair down’ and speak openly about things that trouble them.

We have asked three colleagues to present their own experiences to facilitate this discussion, to be followed by Marcel Verweij presenting a philosopher’s view of research ethics. An interactive session between these will focus on further developing our collective awareness of the range of dilemmas in fieldwork practices.

13:00 - 13:15 Welcome and introductions by Severine van Bommel
13:15 - 13:30 Brief overview: Regulating ‘ethics’ in social science research by Dvora Yanow
13:30 - 14:45 Ethics in field research: 3 cases (presentations and discussion)
Claudio Minca (Cultural Geography), ‘A walk in Idomeni: Fieldwork and the question of academic capital’
Barbara van Mierlo (KTI), ‘Personal safety and/versus intervention’
Sietze Vellema (KTI), ‘Professional ethics in action research embedded in value chains and partnerships in Africa’
14:45 - 15:00 Break
15:00 - 16:00 Discussion
16:00 - 16:15 Marcel Verweij, ‘A response from philosophy’
16:15 - 17:00 Wrap-up discussion