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Beth Manke, PhD Lauren Rauscher, PhD Department of Human Development California State University Long Beach The Ethics of Power in Conducting & Evaluating.

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Presentation on theme: "Beth Manke, PhD Lauren Rauscher, PhD Department of Human Development California State University Long Beach The Ethics of Power in Conducting & Evaluating."— Presentation transcript:

1 Beth Manke, PhD Lauren Rauscher, PhD Department of Human Development California State University Long Beach The Ethics of Power in Conducting & Evaluating Social Science Research

2 This module contains three topic sections that engage our understanding of how power pervades all aspects of the social science research process – from the creation of research questions to the dissemination of findings. Learning Objectives: understand how power operates throughout the research process critically evaluate ethical research practices in both basic and applied studies identify alternative research designs that do not reproduce existing inequalities and hierarchies For each section, we identify key concepts and a list of recommended sources to illustrate the applicability of the concepts to research in anthropology, psychology, and sociology. Contents

3 Power: the fundamental ethical issue in research Power defined. Contested term in the social sciences. Multiple bases of power Force Coercion Authority Legitimacy Position

4 Exemplary Cases: Debates on the misuse of power in research Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment This case illustrates the decisions made by scientists in the U.S. Public Health Service during the 40 year Tuskegee Experiment in rural Alabama that denied Black men treatment for syphilis – long after treatment options had been developed – in order to study racial differences in how the disease progressed. One legacy of Tuskegee is the institutionalization of protection for human subjects in research. Deadly Deception, PBS/WGBH NOVA documentary video; Bad Blood (Jones 1993) Tuskegee Revisited?: AZT Trials in Africa More recent headlines draw attention to debate over the AIDS clinical trials in Africa and the Dominican Republic that provide AZT placebos to a control group of HIV positive women. This contemporary case raises questions about informed consent, race, and the use of placebos when effective treatment exists.

5 Gays + Lesbians Excluded from Medical Research A recent article in the New England Journal of Health reports that gay men and lesbians are excluded from medical trials during the screening process, especially in studies that focus on sexual function. This case raises questions of inclusion and exclusion, and how that can influence findings. Egleston, Dunbrack, and Hall (March 18, 2010) Consent for the Uses of DNA Members of the Havasupai Indian tribe in the Grand Canyon were awarded $700K after a fight with the Arizona State University over the (mis)use of their DNA in genetic research. In the 1990s tribe members gave consent for their blood samples (which they view as sacred) to be used in research on diabetes, yet the data was used to study other issues as well. This case highlights issues of transparency and thoroughness in informed consent, research with groups that are culturally different from researchers, and the type and extent of information that can be gleaned from DNA about original donors. New York Times series (Spring 2010) Exemplary Cases: cont’d

6 Section I: Understanding Social Location

7 Social location : What is it? What does it have to do with research? Social location – one’s position within society Hierarchies based on Gender, Race/Ethnicity, Nationality, Social Class, Sexual Orientation, (Dis)Ability We all interpret behavior based on our own particular point of view, which is shaped by our social location, culture, experiences, community, historical period, values, and assumptions about the world. Reflexivity is key!

8 Developing Research Questions: aware of social location Should this particular group, setting, situation, or question be studied by anyone? Should this group, setting, situation, or questions be studied by me? (Lofland et al) Ask these important questions about the potential negative consequences for doing any research in efforts to avoid reproducing existing social, economic, and political hierarchies.

9 Data Collection + Analyses: aware of social location and bias How can we avoid errors rooted in the particularities of our own backgrounds and improve our reasoning of the social world? (Schutt 2006: 5) Ethnocentrism: Using the standards of one’s own group, culture or subculture to evaluate the characteristics of another group, generally from the view that one’s own culture is superior.

10 Key Concepts Social Location Domination Oppression Privilege Ethnocentrism Bias Reflexivity

11 Select References Collins, Patricia Hill Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment. New York: Routledge. Lofland, John, David A. Snow, Leon Anderson, and Lyn H. Lofland Chapter 1 in Analyzing Social Settings, 4th Edition. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth. Mills, C.W. 2003/[1959]. The Promise. In Down to Earth Sociology, 12th Edition, edited by James Henslin. New York: The Free Press. (Reproduced from The Sociological Imagination). Pp Miner, Horace. 2003/[1956]. Body Ritual among the Nacirema. In Down to Earth Sociology, 12th Edition, edited by James Henslin. New York: The Free Press. (Reproduced from American Anthropologist 58:3). Pp Schutt, Russell K Chapter 1: Science, Society, and Social Research in Investigating the Social World: The Process and Practice of Research, 6th Edition. Thousand Oaks: Pine Forge Press.

12 Section II: Having Voice and Giving Voice - Designing and Carrying Out Research

13 Relationships Between Researchers + Researched Having and giving voice embody issues of power as the “researched other” is usually less powerful and more marginalized vis-à- vis the relatively elite position of researchers.

14 Challenges: relationships between researchers + researched Paternalistic attitudes and stereotypes about “at-risk” groups (acting like we know what’s best for others without asking them what they want). Research paradigms that treat people as passive objects to be studied, analyzed and investigated, thereby rendering people nameless and voiceless. Defining benefits to research as solely that which adds to academic knowledge or is a material good (e.g., monetary incentive, class credit).

15 The use of large monetary incentives in the recruitment of research participants that may be seen as manipulative. Data collection techniques that involve deception (e.g., Milgram experiments). Laws that inadvertently place researchers in a “policing role” (laws about reporting abuse disclosed by participants). Challenges: in the relationships between researchers + researched

16 Alternatives: relationships between researchers + researched Involving participants (and the community) as co- researchers (partners) who are jointly responsible for the design and implementation of research. Including community members on IRB committees or advisory boards to review research proposals.

17 Alternatives: relationships between researchers + researched Defining study benefits in terms of what the community gains including public awareness, political empowerment, and amelioration of social inequalities. Frank discussions about the pros and cons of maintaining confidentiality versus giving credit to participants.

18 Legitimacy among researchers within scientific communities The power to shape (or dictate) research agendas is not equally shared among researchers, with some researchers and topics having more influence than others.

19 Legitimacy among researchers within scientific communities Who has more power to shape research agendas? Senior investigators: those with track records of productivity and success are seen as “safer bets” when grant funds are awarded. This may disadvantage more junior researchers with cutting-edge ideas. Investigators at research-intensive institutions: those at institutions that have established infrastructures for supporting large grants are often advantaged in the grant process. Investigators at teaching-intensive institutions are sometimes seen as less legitimate researches and are further disadvantaged because they often have fewer immediate mentors to guide them in the grant process.

20 Legitimacy among researchers within scientific communities Not all topics have equal appeal. What research topics are more likely to get funded? Topics that have gained recent media attention: academic research is susceptible to trends and “hot” topics (e.g., recent focus on obesity). Less trendy research remains important but may be harder to fund. Topics that aim to fix rather then prevent: intervention projects often gain more attention and funding than do prevention projects. It is easier to convince people to fund projects that aim to fix something that is already a problem rather than projects that aim to prevent possible problems.

21 Key Concepts Paternalistic attitudes Community-based participatory research Monetary incentives Deception Intervention Prevention

22 Select References Bradley, M. (2007). Silenced for their own protection: How the IRB marginalizes those it feigns to protect, International Journal for Critical Geographies, 6, Daley, C., James, A., Ulrey, E., Joseph, S., Talawyma, A., Choi, W., et al. (2010). Using Focus Groups in Community-Based Participatory Research: Challenges and Resolutions. Qualitative Health Research, 20(5), Horowitz, C.R., Goldfinger, J.S., Muller, S., Pulchino, R., Vance, T., Arniella, G., and Lancaster, K. (2008). A model for using community-based participatory research to address the diabetes epidemic in East Harlem, Mount Sinai Journal of Medicine, 75, Hudley, C. (2006). Who is watching the watchers? The Challenge of observing peer interactions on elementary school playgrounds. New Directions for Evaluation, 110,

23 Selected References James, A. (2007). Giving voice to children’s voices: Practices and problems, pitfalls and potentials, American Anthropologist, 109, Maher, Lisa Appendix: On Reflexivity, Reciprocity, and Ethnographic Research from Sexed Work: Gender, Race, and Resistance in a Brooklyn Drug Market. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Miller, F., & Wertheimer, A. (2007). Facing up to paternalism in research ethics. Hastings Center Report, 37(3), Twine, F.W., & Warren, J.W. (2000). Racing Research, Researching Race: Methodological Dilemmas in Critical Race Sudies. New York University Press: New York.

24 Section III: Research for Whom?: Dissemination of Findings

25 The dissemination of research findings embodies issues of power as researchers make important decisions about what and where their findings will be disseminated.

26 Research for Whom?: Dissemination of Findings WHAT research findings are disseminated? Reporting only statistically significant findings: most academic journals only publish statistically significant findings even though null findings, in many cases, have social relevance. Withholding findings when results may be controversial: researchers may be tempted (or pressured) to withhold findings when their results may invite controversy.

27 Research for Whom?: Dissemination of Findings WHAT research findings are disseminated? Framing results to support specific agendas: results can be manipulated to support political and social agendas.

28 Research for Whom?: Dissemination of Findings Do researchers have an ethical responsibility to disseminate findings to both academic peers and lay audiences?

29 Research for Whom?: Dissemination of Findings WHERE are research findings disseminated? To academic peers: findings are published in academic journals and books and presented at professional conferences. Findings are typically subject to rigorous review by a panel of peers prior to dissemination. This form of dissemination is often criticized as being elitist and esoteric. PRO : CON:

30 Research for Whom?: Dissemination of Findings WHERE are research findings disseminated? To lay audiences: findings are presented at community forums and written about in newsletters and reports. The media also reports research findings in TV newscasts and newspapers. PROS: In these outlets findings are usually more accessible— written about/discussed in ways that are more useful in applied settings. Represents an inclusive approach that invites feedback from all stakeholders including research participants and community members.

31 Research for Whom?: Dissemination of Findings CON: Little regulation or review of findings disseminated via these outlets. Findings can be sensationalized, oversimplified, distorted, and overgeneralized, particularly by the media (e.g., recent reports about the benefits of spanking).

32 Research for Whom?: Dissemination of Findings Should researchers be held responsible for how their research findings are used by policy makers and other decision makers?

33 Select References Beirich, H. (2007). Promoting Hate, Intelligence Report, 125. Southern Poverty Law Center (for an example of the debate regarding whether researchers should be responsible for how their research is used by others). Black, R (January 4, 2010). Spanking makes kids perform better in school, New York Daily News (for an example of how the media can oversimply research findings and report on findings that have yet to undergo rigorous peer preview). Santisteban, D., Vega, R., & Suarez-Morales, L. (2006). Utilizing dissemination findings to help understand and bridge the research and practice gap in the treatment of substance abuse disorders in Hispanic populations. Drug & Alcohol Dependence,


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