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Research ethics versus ethical approval: A response to Tomaselli (Papers: Katie Fitzpatrick | 2017)0

Posted by Admin in on September 27, 2018

Keyan Tomaselli’s opinion piece provides a great deal of food for thought about a wide range of issues in research. I want to pick up here on one point he makes, which I think is worth further consideration: the issue of research ethics and approvals in ethnography. He notes that “bio-medical ethical models are imposed on anthropologists” and he raises concerns about how universities engage in the gate keeping of research approvals. This is an important point and one that might usefully be explored further in future issues of this journal. It seems to me that ethical approval has, indeed, been divorced from the academic field of research ethics, especially in qualitative research. As Tomaselli notes, we might question the right of “organisations [to] claim jurisdiction over the right of adult individuals or researchers to make their own respective choices”. I think we might also seek to uphold the rights of young people—not only adults—to make decisions about the kinds of research they engage in and how their voices are represented therein.

Ethical issues in ethnographic research are, indeed, complex, locally and culturally specific, and are difficult to regulate. Part of this difficulty lies in the fact that ethnographic research is, by definition, relational. Romero and Walker (2010, 209) observe that “some of the most prevalent methodological and ethical questions in contemporary ethnographic research concern whose voice is heard and how it is represented”. They note that “in theory and in practice, Institutional Review Boards require that the identity of individuals be protected and remain anonymous or at very least confidential” [sic] (223). Many ethnographers adhere to this approach because they are committed to protecting the identities of their participants, especially when the research concerns personal, legal, sexual or other sensitive materials. However, an assumption that people’s identities should and will be obscured in research representations is also problematic, especially when this decision is made prior to even entering the field.

Fitzpartrick, Katie. 2017. “ Research ethics versus ethical approval: A response to Tomaselli.” The Ethnograhic Edge  1, (1): 21– 33.

Research ethics in the Kalahari: issues, contradictions and concerns (Papers: Keyan Tomaselli | 2017)0

Posted by Admin in on September 6, 2018

The effects of ethical clearance or institutional review board practices are discussed in relation to the experiences of academic field researchers on the one hand and indigenous research participants and/or co-generators of knowledge on the other. Ethical procedures such as protection (do no harm), control (micromanaging methods) and exploitation (taking ownership) are discussed in relation to researcher experiences in southern Africa. Researcher–researched relations, researcher and subject alienation, ethics creep and the clash of ontologies are examined. Some tentative solutions are proposed.

Keywords: ethics, gatekeepers, indigenous rights, institutional review board, Kalahari, ≠Khomani Bushmen

Tomaselli, K.G. (2017): Ethical Procedures? A Critical Intervention: The sacred, the profane, and the planet. The Ethnographic Edge, [S.l.], v. 1, n. 1, p. 3-16.

Qualitative Research in Dangerous Places: Becoming an ”Ethnographer” of Violence and Personal Safety (Guidance: Social Science Research Council | 2016)0

Posted by Admin in on June 10, 2018

Social Science Research Council | Working Papers

“Over the last generation, activists, journalists, and researchers working in Latin America have increasingly faced the challenge of operating in areas affected by chronic police and non-state violence. Further, rising crime rates are leading a growing number of scholars to conduct research on high-risk topics, which involves gathering data on communities that experience conflict, writing and publishing on these difficult and sensitive issues, and developing and implementing programs to deal with the needs of communities affected by violence as well as the wider conflicts in which those communities are embedded. Despite these trends, the literature on safe practices for those working in high-risk environments remains thin. The DSD Working Papers on Research Security series seeks to address this deficit by examining a range of research security concerns, providing a framework to help those working in the region consider how they can enhance their own safety as well as the safety of their associates and research participants.”

Goldstein, D. (2016) Qualitative Research in Dangerous Places: Becoming an ‘Ethnographer’ of Violence and Personal Safety. Brooklyn, NY: Social Science Research Council.
Publisher (Open Access):

Global Health Research in an Unequal World: Ethics Case Studies from Africa (Gemma Aellah | 2016)0

Posted by Admin in on November 23, 2017

Conducting good, ethical global health research is now more important than ever. Increased global mobility and connectivity mean that in today’s world there is no such thing as ‘local health’. How we experience the effects of disease may be shaped by our particular social and political-economic circumstances, but the sick in one part of the world and the healthy in another are connected through economics, politics, media, and imagination, as well as by the infectiousness of disease. Global health research carried out through transnational collaboration is one crucial way in which people from far-flung geographic regions relate to each other. Good global health research, and the relationships it creates, therefore, concerns us all.

This book is a collection of fictionalized case studies of everyday ethical dilemmas and challenges often encountered in the process of conducting global health research in Africa where the effects of global, political and economic inequality are particularly evident. Our aim is to create a training tool which can begin to fill the gap between research ethics guidelines and their implementation ‘on the ground’. The case studies, therefore, focus on everyday or ‘relational’ ethics: ethical actions and ideas that emerge through relations with others in context, rather than in universal principles or abstract regulations

Aellah, G; Chantler, T; Geissler, PW (2016) Global Health Research in an Unequal World: Ethics Case Studies from Africa CABI: Oxfordshire, UK. Available at: