In reviewing case studies and examples brought to our workshops by researchers, it is clear that:
Ethical issues in global research are extremely complex.
Solutions are rarely simple or perfect. They need to be contextually relevant if they are to work.
It may be that a ‘fully worked’ solution is not clear but that parts of the solution will give enough traction to begin a process of resolution.
Different individuals and different groups often come to different conclusions. Both may follow a principled stance but make different justifiable choices at a number of decision-making points. Some solutions might be a better fit for different research teams, depending on the skills and expertise of each member.
Ethical decision making is more than following a set of rules. It should be about being open to exploring a range of possibilities, each of which may be ethical but may have different implications and may have different pragmatic constraints.
Ethical issues emerge across all stages of the research journey and may change over time.
Helpful questions in finding a solution include:
- What might have pre-empted the issue (this is relevant to future proofing)?
- What were the early warning signs?
- How could key issues be assessed once they have arisen?
- What should be the immediate response?
- What should be the follow-up response at each subsequent stage of the research journey?
Case Analysis Template
We have developed a template to help your team analyse ethical conflicts and look for solutions. This template highlights the importance of considering all phases of the research journey. It also highlights the importance of considering Place, People, Principles and Precedent both in the analysis and in the search for solutions.
Please see the case examples below. We do not claim that these examples are applicable to different contexts. We know that ethical conflicts need to be analyzed according to their own context. What works in one place can be disastrous in another.