Excerpt: The growth in bureaucratic oversight of research has caused growing disquiet internationally. A critical literature from the UK, the USA and elsewhere details the origins and negative impact of processes that often conflict with fundamental principles of social science research. Ethics committees’ concerns are based on notions of protecting individuals, especially the researched, from harm. But research into social bodies raises quite different ethical considerations (Simpson 2011).
Let us be clear: university ethics committees were not set up to counter bad research practices (Badiou 2001). Rather, they have flourished in the wake of the increasing scale and pervasiveness of ‘audit culture’ where the ‘twinned precepts of economic efficiency and good practice are being pursued’ (Strathern 2000: xv). Rather than achieving either aim, the rapid expansion of the power and reach of Australian HRECs exemplifies the way audit culture ‘beckon[s] a new form of coercive and authoritarian governmentality’ (Shore and Wright 1999: 557). To protect original, critical, engaged ethnographic research we need to establish the inappropriateness of these committees, by showing the way their practices contradict the principles of good ethnographic research.2 Strathern’s responses of ‘anxiety and small resistances’ to this ‘culture in the making’ are ineffective (Strathern 2000: xiv).
Cowlishaw G (2014) Auditing ethics committees. The Australian Journal of Anthropology 25 (3): 377–379
Also see: A new protection policy? (2013) http://insidestory.org.au/a-new-protection-policy/ Free access