A community dedicated to exchanging ideas and experiences about field research and ethics in conflict, post-conflict, authoritarian, and other difficult fieldwork settings, including contexts of systemic and symbolic violence.
Safety and Security of Researcher and Research Subjects: Protection
Are the informed consent and confidentiality concepts, at the core of the IRB certification, enough to protect research subjects? How can informed consent be used in a post-conflict environment? How can informed consent be used in cultures where consent is a community affair, not an individual one?Possible approaches:
Oral rather than written consent
Consent from village elders/representatives
Emphasis on transparency when conducting research
What constitutes enough when protecting identities of research subjects? Does the safety of respondents extend beyond their physical and emotional safety? Do researchers also need to consider where respondents are in their post-war healing process?Possible approaches:
Interviewing more respondents than the target group to camouflage the characteristics of the target group
Shielding of identities of respondents with pseudonyms, disguises, changing of identifying characteristics of respondents and locations (sometimes even if not required by respondents)
Repeated interviews with same respondents to help build trust (will also help deepen knowledge of the researcher and provide thicker data)
Encryption and password protection of data
Who should determine the level of protection: the researcher, the research subject or a code of ethics?
Can any code of ethics begin to address all situations?
Is a flexible understanding of possible problems, ethical dilemmas and appropriate responses a better approach? How can that flexible understanding be developed?
How can researchers know if their presence is bringing harm? Does the concept of do-no- harm extend to the well-being of the respondent? What about the “responsibility to do no harm”? Are these concepts appropriate; should they be guiding principles? What if the researcher wants to do harm to some research subjects (such as exposing human rights abuses, or unethical behavior): is that ethical?
Are there different levels or dimensions of ethical obligation to respondents and their safety? What are the differences between professional obligations, personal obligations to respondents and their families, and moral obligations which arise over the course of the research?
What are the researcher’s obligations to public safety vs. confidentiality if research uncovers information relevant to the safety concerns of others or the public at large?