19 SES 02, Ethics and Research in Educational Ethnography (Part 1)
Symposium to be continued in 19 SES 03
This paper focuses on the sharp tension between the ‘creep’ of ethical regulation from medicine and psychology across the whole of social science (Haggerty 2004) and the practical requirements of doing ethnographic research in education in ways that are ethically satisfactory. What is meant by ‘ethical regulation’ here is the operation of ethics committees, located in UK universities, that decide whether or not particular research projects can go ahead, and on what terms. The tightening of ethical regulation over the past twenty years has had particularly sharp consequences for ethnographic research because the model of enquiry on which regulatory guidelines and arrangements have been based is usually at odds with its character (Hammersley &Traianou, 2012). Many social researchers argue that the new regulatory procedures have introduced significant barriers into the research process, as well as delays. Some have also insisted that these procedures are unnecessary, counterproductive, and are themselves unethical, being an infringement of the academic freedom that is essential if sound research is to be pursued. One component of this criticism has sometimes been an emphasis on the essential role of phrónēsis (wise judgment) in educational ethnography, as in other research and professional activities (see Dunne, 1997). It has been argued that, because this is necessary if research is to be pursued well, the sort of transparency demanded by ethical regulation is impossible, and that attempts to achieve it necessarily have undesirable effects: that they lead ethnographers to become primarily concerned with whether or not they are compliant with established rules or procedures, rather than with making good ethical and methodological judgments. In this paper, I will attempt to discuss how ethics committees could facilitate the development of phrónēsis on the part of ethnographers, by forcing greater attention to methodological and ethical issues and exposing individual researchers to diverse views about these.
Dunne, J. (1997) Back to the Rough Ground: Practical judgment and the lure of technique, Notre Dame IND, University of Notre Dame Press. Haggerty, K. (2004) ‘Ethics creep: governing social science research in the name of ethics’, Qualitative Sociology, 27, 4, pp391-414 Hammersley, M. and Traianou, A. (2012) Ethics in Qualitative Research, London, Sage.
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