1.5.3 Research Ethics

EAR involves researchers in a wide range of ethical issues.

EAR researchers need to remain very aware of the following issues:

Explain yourself: Before doing any research activity, including a mapping exercise, an interview, group discussion or survey, researchers should tell people briefly but clearly why they are doing the research, what they are trying to find out and how they will use the data. This is not always appropriate or possible in everyday participant observation, but if people ask a researcher about their role, it should be explained to them. Participants should be given the opportunity to ask the EAR researcher questions about the research, its findings and potentials. Participants should also be given the right of refusal. If a participant declines to be interviewed, or answer a survey it is important that an EAR researcher respects this choice. This may even happen after the interview or exercise has taken place. Participants have the right to change their mind about inclusion at any time.

Respecting confidences: A researcher will need to assure all participants that what they say will be kept confidential and non-attributable, if they so desire. The researcher needs to honour that assurance by not using people's real names or identities when communicating their data (e.g. in reports). A researcher should never tell participants what other people have told them in ways that might identify those people. They also need to keep recordings, transcriptions and field notes safely and securely.

Treating people sensitively: During research an EAR researcher may bring out strong emotions and confidences, and form close relationships. These need to be treated sensitively - it is an EAR researcher's responsibility to respect the research relationships they develop. In all research activities they must be careful not to be intrusive or disruptive. This might include stopping an interview or visit, or it might be agreeing to not use certain data that a participant has expressed concerns about.

Exploring sensitive issues: A researcher will need to be prepared to find ways to explore sensitive issues in their research. Respecting people's opinions and viewpoints is important in this enterprise, even if they strongly disagree with them. A researcher needs to first understand people's perspectives and beliefs about such things before they can consider whether and how an initiative might challenge them.

Never put people at risk or endanger their well-being: Reporting on what people say and do can have real consequences for them (and for the EAR researcher and the ICT initiative). A researcher should think carefully about the possible implications for respondents. No research is more important than people's lives or livelihoods. An EAR researcher must also be aware of dangerous situations for him/herself, ensuring their own safety is also important. When choosing a place, time and the people an EAR researcher wishes to engage with, issues of physical safety should be considered. Equally it is also important to consider social and cultural taboos in different communities. Issues or news which an EAR researcher understands to be harmless (in their home village/town) may not be harmless in the area they are working. An EAR researcher must make an effort to understand such issues.