Ethics of (e)research

one-day course for PhD students, post-doctoral and other researchers, organized by the Virtual Knowledge Studio in collaboration with the KNAW, and inspired by the June Plenary.

Date and location: Monday 15 June 2009, at the KNAW, Trippenhuis, Amsterdam.

In this one-day event, participants will have the opportunity to examine their own research practices from an ethical perspective and to learn about current approaches to research ethics.

The workshop will enable researchers to identify and analyze ethical issues that arise in the course of their own research, whether relating to empirical material and sources, to analysis or to publication and dissemination. They will also become familiar with a range of mechanisms that support ethical research practices (codes of conduct, consent forms, ethical audits, etc.). The workshop will contribute to the development of skills to deal with ethical dilemmas and increase researchers’ confidence in undertaking research in novel settings or using new tools.

Such a workshop is especially timely because the ethical dimensions of research are receiving more attention from national and transnational funding agencies and professional associations for a number of reasons, including:

  • greater accountability of researchers
  • pressure from funders to increase scale and disciplinary breadth of research teams;
  • Ethical’ turn in social science and humanities, following the linguistic and cultural turns;
  • Rise of ethical approval committees, moving beyond the medical sciences into other disciplines;
  • Increased presence of new media in research and communication;
  • Increased availability of data arising from mundane social practices; Creation of new research infrastructures and tools

New technologies not only raise new ethical questions; they also bring into relief some very old ones regarding, for example, respect for the confidentiality of research participants. Similarly, greater internationalisation and interdisciplinarity also raise both new and old issues, as different national and disciplinary cultures have different traditions of both defining and dealing with research ethics. For example, universities in the US and Canada have a strong tradition of ethical review, with all research projects involving human subjects – regardless of discipline – being required to obtain institutional approval prior to research commencing.

In European countries, such procedures often only apply to medical and psychological research. The standards of medical research, about informed consent and doing no harm, are not always relevant in social sciences and humanities. Humanities and social sciences differ in their view of people not only from medical sciences but also from each other. For example, for humanities scholars, people producing (online) texts should best be regarded as authors, with the result that they should simply be cited as any other author. For a social scientist, the very same people may be regarded as ‘respondents’ and then issues of consent and confidentiality become more salient.

In the UK, recipients of research council funding are normally expected to deposit all data in a public archive; in the US and Canada, similar data would have to be destroyed after five years. The imposition of ethical review procedures may also have implications for what styles of research are favoured. Most formal review procedures require the production of research instruments as part of the process, instruments which may then need further approval if they are changed. This may work for research using positivistic research designs, but would be very cumbersome for more interpretative research designs which rely on the identification and pursuit of emergent phenomena. Clearly, as research becomes ever more international and interdisciplinary, all of these issues will become urgent. This one-day workshop will orient researchers to these discussions as well as develop their ability to deal with dilemmas faced in research.

Provisional timetable

10-10.30

Arrival & coffee

10.30-11.30

Introductions & ethics quiz

11.40-12.30

Brief lecture outlining history & practice of research ethics in the Netherlands

12.30-13.30

Lunch

13.30-15.00

Discussion of research dilemmas

15-15.30

Tea

15.30-17

Discussion of sample US/Canadian-style ethical clearance form

17-17.30

Concluding remarks

17.30-18.30

Borrel followed by dinner

Work to be done in advance by participants:

Complete ethical clearance form and write one page about past or current dilemma.

Time and location: 10-18.30 (followed by dinner), Monday 15 June 2009, at the Trippenhuis, Kloveniersburgwal 29, Amsterdam. More travel information at http://www.knaw.nl/contact/contact_eng.html

Registration: Please contact Anja de Haas (anja.dehaas@vks.knaw.nl) to register. Deadline for registration is 8 May 2009.

Cost: €50, includes participation, course materials, lunch and breaks; or €75, also including dinner

Number of participants: maximum 16, to ensure a discussion-oriented format

Contact : Prof. S. Wyatt (sally.wyatt@vks.knaw.nl) or Dr. A. Beaulieu (anne.beaulieu@vks.knaw.nl)

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5 responses to “Ethics of (e)research

  1. Pingback: Ethics in research « SAKJ

  2. I have seen the announcement on the AoIR list and am wondering whether it would be possible to participate as I am not yet in my current dilemma but in the planning phase of the thesis research (i.e. the workshop in 2010 would be too late) and coming from a rather specific background as a UK student who is working off-campus as distant part-time researcher (Open University).

    Having said that, I remember that the #IR9 workshop in Copenhagen last year on editing and publishing issues was invaluable at this fairly early stage.

    Keep up the great work – and see you in Milwaukee, if not earlier.
    Best
    Britta
    http://britbohlinger.wordpress.com

  3. Britta, it would certainly be possible to participate! Indeed, one thing we especially want to stress in the workshop is that ethics is an ongoing concern, not a single moment in the ‘beginning’ of the research process around instances of data collection or informed consent.

    From what you write, it sounds like you already have some issues you want to explore and some experiences of being a scholar in a mediated setting that are highly relevant. Hope to see you in Amsterdam, Anne

  4. Thank you so much for the prompt response, Anne – I am very glad to hear that I can participate. I indeed have a number of questions and hope that discussion in Amsterdam will help me seeing things from various angles that ultimately help in developing solutions.

    Looking forward to the meeting – and will arrange the registration as required.
    Best, Britta.

  5. Pingback: Ethics of e-research at NCeSS « VKS Ethnography

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