Research in the Social Sciences and Humanities may involve interviewing people who are famous or in senior roles, often known as elite interviewing. Prominent or ‘elite’ public figures could range from senior government officials, Chief Executives of large companies and community leaders, to individuals famous for their activities in academia, the arts or sport. ‘Expert’ participants may be individuals chosen by virtue of their role or expertise (e.g. editors of national newspapers, high court judges, heads of NGOs, tax lawyers, top-level managers). Anyone who is responsible for and has privileged access to the knowledge of specific groups of people or decision-making processes can be seen as an expert. It is acknowledged that this guidance may not be appropriate in all settings involving interviews with participants who could be considered experts or elites. In ethnographic fieldwork it may not always be immediately clear who the ‘experts’ are and such status can be contested. In some settings it may not be the researcher who is best placed to decide who is and is not the expert.
This excellent guidance document produced by the University of Oxford is another great resource item about ethical research with experts/elite individuals. A great item for researchers, Research Ethics Reviewers, Research Ethics Advisors and research office staff. We have included a link to one related item.
This guidance may also be useful for researchers conducting other types of interview, including oral history interviews.
Introduction … 1
Recruiting participants … 2
Practical considerations … 3
Consent of participants …. 3
Written consent … 3
Oral consent … 3
Data protection and confidentiality/ anonymity issues … 4
Complex ethical issues raised in research fieldwork … 5
Duty of care issues/ potential risks/ power imbalance … 5
Monitoring and reporting of adverse or unforeseen events … 6
Further reading … 6
Central University Research Ethics Committee, Oxford University (2020) Best Practice Guidance: Elite and Expert Interviewing. https://researchsupport.admin.ox.ac.uk/files/bpg03eliteandexpertinterviewingpdf