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Research Ethics Andy Hobson & Andy Townsend School of Education University of Nottingham.

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1 Research Ethics Andy Hobson & Andy Townsend School of Education University of Nottingham

2 “I have never known an interviewer to be completely honest with his respondents … Neither does any researcher ever have adequate insight for a perfect representation of his identity; it is always a matter of greater or lesser misrepresentation… The researcher must also keep in mind that no method can ever be completely safe for himself or his respondents … The ethics of social science are situation ethics” (Humphreys, 1970).

3 Outline 1. Introduction to research ethics and the PGR ethical review process –What do we mean by research ethics? –Why be concerned with research ethics? –An overview of PGR ethical review in the School of Education –The ethical guidelines of the British Educational Research Association (BERA) –Standard ethical principles and obligations to (prospective) research participants –Problems with codes of ethical conduct 2. Ethical issues in practitioner and action research 3. Considering ethical issues and dilemmas in research

4 1. Introduction to research ethics and the PGR ethical review process

5 What do we mean by research ethics? An ‘ethic’ is a moral principle or a code of conduct which … governs what people do. It is concerned with the way people act or behave. The term ‘ethics’ usually refers to the moral principles, guiding conduct, which are held by a group or even a profession (though there is no logical reason why individuals should not have their own ethical code)” (Wellington, 2000: 54)

6 When are research ethics a concern? Not just something that occurs at the beginning of a research project / prior to fieldwork (Lewis, 2004). “Ethical concerns should be at the forefront of any research project and should continue through to the write-up and dissemination stages” (Wellington, 2000: 3)

7 Why be concerned with research ethics in the School of Education? Professional responsibility – avoidance of exploitation of research participants Research can be harmful: –to research participants –to individual researchers –to the School / University –to our relations with schools –to the research community Ethical malpractice exists BERA (2004) Revised Ethical Guidelines for Educational Research www.bera.ac.uk/publications/guides.php www.bera.ac.uk/publications/guides.php ESRC (2005) Research Ethics Framework www.esrcsocietytoday.ac.uk/ESRCInfoCentre/opportunities/research_ethics _framework/ www.esrcsocietytoday.ac.uk/ESRCInfoCentre/opportunities/research_ethics _framework/ We live in a more litigious society.

8 An overview of the PGR ethics review procedure in the School of Education, U of N. The Research Ethics folder on the student intranet includes information on: Research ethics review procedure for PGR students (including MA Research Methods / ERM) Research ethics review procedure for postgraduate taught course (PGT) students Research ethics reading list The Data Protection legislation A generic research participant information sheet A generic participant consent form Relevant forms

9 Research ethics review procedure for PGR students In advance of undertaking fieldwork, students are asked to: Read about ethical issues Discuss ethical implications of their research with supervisors Submit a research ethics proposal to the PGR office for review and this should include: –a completed Statement of Research Ethics –a brief statement of how they propose to gain access to research participants –a draft participant information sheet –a draft participant consent form –signatures of student and supervisor The proposal is either approved or student is asked to (rethink,) revise and resubmit Comments on the proposal are given back to the student and copied to supervisor(s) and Director of PGR Research students undertaking research involving children or vulnerable adults must obtain CRB clearance

10 The Revised Ethical Guidelines of the British Educational Research Association (BERA, 2004) Underpinning Principles “The Association considers that all educational research should be conducted within an ethic of respect for: –The Person –Knowledge –Democratic Values –The Quality of Educational Research –Academic Freedom “The underpinning aim of the guidelines is to enable educational researchers to weigh up all aspects of the process of conducting educational research within any given context (from student research projects to large- scale funded projects) and to reach an ethically acceptable position in which their actions are considered justifiable and sound.” (BERA 2004, p.3)

11 BERA (2004) Ethical Guidelines (cont.) In guiding researchers on their conduct within this framework the Association sets out its guidelines under the following headings: Responsibilities to Participants Responsibilities to Sponsors of Research Responsibilities to the Community of Educational Researchers”

12 Standard ethical principles / obligations to (prospective) research participants Fully informed consent of prospective participants & (for minors) ‘responsible others’. Researcher should provide information about: –the aims and nature of the research –identity and contact details of researchers –likely duration of research & their involvement –who will have access to data –how data will be stored –possible consequences of participation and of the research –whether participants would have right to see/amend transcripts, comment on provisional data analyses etc. –how results are likely to be disseminated –the extent to which confidentiality and anonymity will be protected

13 Standard ethical principles / obligations to (prospective) research participants (cont.) Participants’ right to withdraw from study Confidentiality – whilst researchers know who has provided data, they should not make this known to others Anonymity Non-traceability Protection of participants’ welfare – attempt to ensure that participants are not harmed or detrimentally affected by the research Respect for participants’ right to privacy Respect for knowledge – ‘pursuit of truth’ Sensitivity to differences relating (for example) to age, culture, disability, race, sex, religion, sexual orientation.

14 Problems with codes of ethical conduct Codes of ethical or professional conduct are only ever relatively finished products (Small, Codes are Not Enough, 2002) The principles listed in such codes are not always: –desirable e.g. anonymity –achievable e.g. fully informed consent; avoidance of harm –compatible e.g. pursuit of knowledge versus fully informed consent / avoidance of deception. Individual researchers must therefore make choices –weigh up competing ethical and other methodological considerations –produce ethically and methodologically defensible position.

15 Contrasting solutions / positions: Ethics of research not priority: …it is always a matter of greater or lesser misrepresentation… The ethics of social science are situation ethics” (Humphreys, 1970). Research ethics priority: “My own view is that the MAIN CRITERION for educational research is that it should be ethical… [E]very researcher [should] place it foremost in the planning, conduct and presentation of his / her research. Ethical considerations override all others” (Wellington, 2000: 54; original emphasis). Research student and supervisor may not agree on where balance should lie.

16 2. Ethical issues in practitioner and action research

17 Ethical issues in practitioner and action research Introduction The preamble to BERA (2004) Ethical Guidelines states that: “This revision of the Association’s Ethical Guidelines (for Educational Research) builds on the 1992 statement in two significant ways. First it seeks more fully to recognize the academic tensions that a multi- disciplinary community generates when dealing with the complex research issues that characterize education contexts. Secondly it seeks to include the field of action research” (BERA 2004, p.3; emphasis added).

18 BUT…. beyond that not a great deal is said about practitioner research in general or action research in particular: “Researchers must take the steps necessary to ensure that all participants in the research understand the process in which they are to be engaged, including why their participation is necessary, how it will be used and how and to whom it will be reported. Researchers engaged in action research must consider the extent to which their own reflective research impinges on others, for example in the case of the dual role of teacher and researcher and the impact on students and colleagues. Dual roles may also introduce explicit tensions in areas such as confidentiality and must be addressed accordingly.” (BERA 2004, p. 5) “…a group of teachers engaging in a process of action research as part of curriculum renewal should inform the school management of their intentions.” (BERA 2004, p. 9)

19 Some considerations regarding the ethics of practitioner research Issues relating to the nature of research –Varying forms of researching practice –Differing forms of participation in: practitioner research; action research –Communities of action researchers (is action research sufficiently unique) The knowledge that research can offer us is not for its own sake, but to help us to improve educational experiences for learners; to address issues of social and educational injustice in our schools and colleges…We also hope that new knowledge can be created that helps us to work for a more humane, caring and selfactualising life for those we educate… The ethical focus of practitioner research is, thus, on improvement for ‘the other’ (Noddings, 1994) (Dadds, M., 2002, ‘Taking Curiosity Seriously: the role of awe and Wanda in research-based professionalism’, Educational Action Research, 10, pp9-26).

20 When does practice become research? Practice as a product of research Practice to be evaluated through research Practice as part of (integrated within) the research process Power relations in educational settings Researcher  pupils Researcher  colleagues Researcher  supervisor

21 3. Considering ethical issues and dilemmas in research

22 Considering ethical issues and dilemmas: The next two slides provide eleven questions you might consider in relation to your own position. The slides that follow cover issues that relate to some of these questions.

23 Considering ethical issues and dilemmas: Questions part one 1.Where pupils will be involved as participants in a doctoral study, how (if at all) ought the informed consent of those pupils be secured? 2.Can we justify the use of ‘reasonably fully informed consent’ (Cohen et al, 2000: 51) – i.e. the deliberate withholding of some information about the research to prospective participants? If so, under what circumstances? 3.What does the researcher do if s/he discovers that research participants are engaged in illegal activities and/or behaviour which is likely to cause harm to themselves or others? 4.Should research participants be given the option of not having data relating to them anonymised? If so, under what circumstances? 5.(a) Can we ever justify the use of covert techniques such as covert participant observation? (b)If so, must researchers seek to gain participants’ consent on a post hoc basis? 6.How much and what kinds of ‘harm’, if any, should be tolerated in relation to the conduct of educational research?

24 Considering ethical issues and dilemmas: Questions part two 7.Are the ethical considerations of the participation of pupils, colleagues etc, any different for action research than other forms of research? 8.A teacher wants to trial a new teaching method as part of a practice-based research project. What does the supervisor do if they feel the new teaching method would not benefit pupils? 9.If a teacher chooses to do a piece of research on their own practice, a part of which would be the use of existing school based data, what processes would need to be in place (if any) to ensure that the research was ethical? 10.If participants choose to withdraw from a study (having initially given their informed consent to take part), should they also have the right to withdraw any data relating to their earlier involvement in the research? 11.What are the ethical implications of the use of visual data (e.g. photographs, video) in the presentation of one’s research findings?

25 Q1 Ethical issues and dilemmas 1. Where pupils will be involved as participants in a doctoral study, how (if at all) ought the informed consent of those pupils be secured? For example: –(i) can teachers consent for pupils? –(ii) can parents consent for pupils? –(iii) can teachers consent for parents? BERA 2004 (para 5) ‘requires’ that member researchers comply with Article 12 of United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child: “children who are capable of forming their own views should be granted the right to express their views freely in all matters affecting them, commensurate with their age and maturity. Children should therefore be facilitated to give fully informed consent.” BERA 2004 (para 7): “In the case of participants whose age, intellectual capability or other vulnerable circumstance may limit the extent to which they can be expected to understand or agree voluntarily to undertake their role, researchers must fully explore alternative ways in which they can be enabled to make authentic responses. In such circumstances, researchers must also seek the collaboration and approval of those who act in guardianship (e.g. parents) or as ‘responsible others’ (i.e. those who have responsibility for the welfare and well-being of the participants e.g. social workers)” (emphasis added)

26 Q2 Ethical issues and dilemmas 2. Can we justify the use of ‘reasonably fully informed consent’ (Cohen et al, 2000: 51) – i.e. the deliberate withholding of some information about the research? If so, under what circumstances? “…in practice it is often impossible for researchers to inform subjects [about] everything” (Cohen et al, 2000: 51) “I have never known an interviewer to be completely honest with his respondents … Neither does any researcher ever have adequate insight for a perfect representation of his identity; it is always a matter of greater or lesser misrepresentation…” (Humphreys, 1970).

27 Q3 Ethical issues and dilemmas 3. What does the researcher do if s/he discovers that research participants are engaged in illegal activities and/ or behaviour which is likely to cause harm to themselves or others? BERA 2004 (para 18) “Researchers who judge that the effect of the agreements they have made with participants, on confidentiality and anonymity, will allow the continuation of illegal behaviour, which has come to light in the course of the research, must carefully consider making disclosure to the appropriate authorities. If the behaviour is likely to be harmful to the participants or to others, the researchers must also consider disclosure. Insofar as it does not undermine or obviate the disclosure, researchers must apprise the participants or their guardians or responsible others of their intentions and reasons for disclosure.” Reference ought to be made to this issue in the information provided to participants at the outset before they consent to or decline the invitation to take part in the research.

28 Q4 Ethical issues and dilemmas 4. Should research participants be given the option of not having data relating to them anonymised? If so, under what circumstances? BERA 2004 (para 14) “The confidential and anonymous treatment of participants’ data is considered the norm for the conduct of research. Researchers must recognize the participants’ entitlement to privacy and must accord them their rights to confidentiality and anonymity, unless they or their guardians or responsible others, specifically and willingly waive that right. In such circumstances it is in the researchers’ interests to have such a waiver in writing. Conversely, researchers must also recognize participants’ rights to be identified with any publication of their original works or other inputs, if they so wish. In some contexts it will be the expectation of participants to be so identified.” (Emphasis added) But if only some participants wish to waive the right to anonymity, allowing them to do so might compromise the non-traceability of others.

29 5(a). Can we ever justify the use of covert techniques such as covert participant observation? Why should covert methods be censured in social and educational research when their use is sanctioned more readily in other areas of social life? (Calvey 2004). NB Covert observation is discouraged but not ruled out by most of the influential Codes of Conduct of educational and social research organisations, including AERA (2000), BERA (2004), the American Sociological Association (ASA, 1999), the British Sociological Association (BSA, 2002), the American Psychological Association (APA, 2002) and the British Psychological Society (BPS, 1993) “The securing of participants’ voluntary informed consent, before research gets underway, is considered the norm for the conduct of research. Researchers must therefore avoid deception or subterfuge unless their research design specifically requires it to ensure that the appropriate data is collected or that the welfare of the researchers is not put in jeopardy. Decisions to use deception or subterfuge in research must be the subject of full deliberation … The Association recommends that approval for this course of action should be obtained from a local or institutional ethics committee.” (BERA 2004, para. 7; emphasis added) Q5a Ethical issues and dilemmas

30 Q5b Ethical issues and dilemmas 5(b). If covert research / deception is considered justifiable in some circumstances and employed, must researchers seek to gain participants’ consent on a post hoc basis? This (post hoc consent) is recommended by BERA 2004; AERA 2000; BSA 2002) … BUT …

31 Q6 Ethical issues and dilemmas Q6. How much and what kinds of ‘harm’, if any, should be tolerated in relation to the conduct of educational research? “Researchers must recognize that participants may experience distress or discomfort in the research process and must take all necessary steps to reduce the sense of intrusion and to put them at their ease. They must desist immediately from any actions, ensuing from the research process, that cause emotional or other harm.” (BERA 2004, p. 6). (Australian) National Statement on Ethical Conduct (1999): researchers have an obligation to “maximise potential benefits and minimise possible harms” (emphasis added) SRA (2003): “[s]ocial researchers must strive to protect subjects from undue harm arising as a consequence of their participation in research” (emphasis added) APA (2002): “[p]sychologists do not deceive prospective participants about research that is reasonably expected to cause physical pain or severe emotional distress”

32 Q7&8 Ethical issues and dilemmas Q7. Are the ethical considerations of the participation of pupils, colleagues etc, any different for action research than other forms of research? Q8. A teacher wants to trial a new teaching method as part of a practice-based research project. What does the supervisor do if they feel the new teaching method would not benefit pupils? The [British Educational Research] Association requires researchers to comply with Articles 3 and 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Article 3 requires that in all actions concerning children, the best interests of the child must be the primary consideration.

33 Q9&10 Ethical issues and dilemmas 9. If a teacher chooses to do a piece of research on their own practice, a part of which would be the use of existing school based data, what processes would need to be in place (if any) to ensure that the research was ethical? 10. If research participants choose to withdraw from a study (having initially given their informed consent to take part), should they also have the right to withdraw any data relating to their earlier involvement in the research?

34 Q11 Ethical issues and dilemmas Q11. What are the ethical implications of the use of visual data (e.g. photographs, video) in the presentation of one’s research findings? Consider the scenario of making a documentary film of a school … The hierarchy of the school, on understanding the potential advantages of making the film, could entice or inveigle the subjects (teachers, administrators and students) to take part for the school’s common good… Moreover … the outcomes of filming cannot be preordained and it is only in editing can the final ‘story’ be told, which means ultimate control lies with the film-makers not the subjects… [And] since the effects of the film on actors and audience can rarely be predicted by the film-maker, there can be no guarantees of negative repercussions on subjects. These points exemplify how easy it is for ethical ideals to be subverted in practice.” (Prosser, J., The Moral Maze of Image Research, in H. Simons & R. Usher [2000], Situated Ethics in Educational Research. London: Routledge. Emphasis added.) http://education.leeds.ac.uk/~edu-jdp/image/moral_maze.html

35 References BERA, 2004, Revised Ethical Guidelines for Educational Research www.bera.ac.uk/publications/guides.php www.bera.ac.uk/publications/guides.php Cohen, L. Lawrence, M. & Morrison, K., 2000, Research Methods in Education : 5th Edition. London and New York: Routledge/Falmer Dadds, M.,2002, ‘Taking Curiosity Seriously: the role of awe and Wanda in research-based professionalism’, Educational Action Research, 10 ESRC (2005) Research Ethics Framework www.esrcsocietytoday.ac.uk/ESRCInfoCentre/opportunities/research_ethics _framework / www.esrcsocietytoday.ac.uk/ESRCInfoCentre/opportunities/research_ethics _framework / Humphreys, L., 1970, Tearoom Trade. London: Duckworth Lewis, G. (2004) ‘Developing a Framework for Social Science Research Ethics’, paper delivered at Conference on Ethical Frameworks for Research, Milton Keynes, 4 November. Prosser, J., The Moral Maze of Image Research, in H. Simons & R. Usher,2000, Situated Ethics in Educational Research. London: Routledge Small, R. (2004) Codes are not enough: what philosophy can contribute to the ethics of educational research, in: M. McNamee & D. Bridges (Eds.) The Ethics of Educational Research (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing), 89-110. Wellington, J., 2000, Educational Research: contemporary issues and practical approaches, London: Continuum


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