The research journey is long and often arduous in global research contexts. Ethical challenges may emerge at any stage in this journey, from the design of the initial idea through data collection to the legacy that remains long after the project has been completed.

We have broken down the research journey into common stages to support reflection on the different ethical challenges that may arise at each stage.

These stages are represented in the interactive graphic below.

To further help us identify and address ethical challenges, we have mapped the network of influences and distilled these into four groups: Place, People, Principles and Precedents. These considerations form interdependent threads that weave through all stages of the research journey – reflecting on each of the 4P’s can illuminate ethical challenges as well as help us locate potential solutions.

In this toolkit, we use the stages of the research journey as a structure for exploring ethical dilemmas and solutions across the lifespan of a project.

Please click on the yellow tabs for more detail about each stage of the journey and about each of the 4P’s:

*The research journey is neither linear nor predictable. Many academically-driven projects share a similar pattern, though the order of stages could be different. Revisiting previous stages is often required. These stages are presented to prompt our reflection on different aspects of a research journey and help us consider what is most relevant to our role and work.


During the development of this project, participants emphasized that ethics – doing the right thing – needs to be front of mind throughout our research projects. Some wrongly consider ‘research ethics’ as simply an approval process at their institution – an administrative or bureaucratic hurdle to be overcome so that researchers can ‘get on with’ their research. Research ethics is about day-to-day decision making and action throughout the life-span of a project – and beyond.

Given the complexity of global challenges research we can expect ethical dilemmas to emerge. Ethical dilemmas are not limited to a specific point in time early in the project and they do not neatly fit into an ethics application form. Additionally, things change as the project unfolds, which requires ongoing alertness and attention to ethical implications. Anticipating challenges can help us be attuned to noticing when things go wrong or take an unexpected turn. Each ethical dilemma we face is likely to be multifaceted. In the workshops and roundtables it was highlighted that to understand dilemmas and find ethical solutions, we need to reflect on Place, People, Principles and Precedent (the 4P’s), and in doing so, we can begin to shape context-relevant solutions.

Go to Ethical Principles and Values