Tag Archives: research ethics

Research Ethics and Social Movements: Scholarship, Activism and Knowledge Production

Cover: Gillan & Pickerill (Eds) Research Ethics and Social MovementsWhat ethical challenges are faced by researchers studying social and political movements? Should scholars integrate their personal politics and identities into their research? What role should activists have in shaping the purposes or processes of social scientific research? How do changing political contexts affect the ethical integrity of a research project over time?

These are some of the live issues of research ethics that face students and scholars whose research ‘subjects’ are located in contentious political terrain. The contributors to this volume expose their own ethical thinking as they have met such challenges head on. Each explores real dilemmas of ethical practice on the ground as they carry out research on social movements across the globe. Authors examining pro-democracy activists in Malaysia, sanctions-breakers in the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, environmental health organisations in North America and much else find that the narrow confines of Research Ethics Committees and Institutional Review Boards offer little guidance on the questions that really matter. They offer instead a demonstration of continual reflexivity that is both personal and political in its approach. This book opens up debate on research ethics, delineating key challenges and offering hopeful and practical ways forward for real-world, ethical social science.

This book was first published as a special issue of Social Movement Studies. Details and ebook available via Routledge

Towards an Ethic of Public Sociology

(NB Re-post. First published at Discover Society.)

Among scholars of social movements there is presently a lively debate about the ethics of social research. While the topic of research ethics is rarely one that excites non-specialists (except when Facebook are involved in emotional manipulation experiments) the debate has some important ramifications. Continue reading Towards an Ethic of Public Sociology

The Difficult and Hopeful Ethics of Research on, and with, Social Movements

Abstract: This article explores a number of key questions that serve to introduce this special issue on the ethics of research on activism. We first set out the limitations of the bureaucratic response to ethical complexities in our field. We then examine two approaches often used to justify research that demands time consuming and potentially risky participation in research by activists. We label these approaches the ethic of immediate reciprocity and the ethic of general reciprocity and question their impacts. We note, in particular, the tendency of ethics of reciprocity to preclude research on ‘ugly movements’ whose politics offends the left and liberal leanings predominant among movement researchers. The two ethics also imply different positionalities for the researcher vis-à-vis their subject movement which we explore, alongside dilemmas thrown up by multiple approaches to knowledge production and by complex issues of researcher and activist identities. The overall move to increasing complexity offered by this paper will, we hope, provide food for thought for others who confront real-world ethical dilemmas in fields marked by contention. We also hope that it will encourage readers to turn next to the wide range of contributions offered in this issue.

This article, with Jenny Pickerill, was published in Social Movement Studies. An open access version is available via the University of Manchester.

Cite: Gillan, Kevin and Jenny Pickerill. 2012. ‘The Difficult and Hopeful Ethics of Research on, and with, Social Movements’. Social Movement Studies 11(2):133–43.

Special Issue: The Ethics of Research on Activism

Published in 2012 as Social Movement Studies 11(2). Editors: Kevin Gillan & Jenny Pickerill.

From the editors’ introduction (with Jenny Pickerill):

“This article explores a number of key questions that serve to introduce this special issue on the ethics of research on activism. We first set out the limitations of the bureaucratic response to ethical complexities in our field. We then examine two approaches often used to justify research that demands time consuming and potentially risky participation in research by activists. We label these approaches the ethic of immediate reciprocity and the ethic of general reciprocity and question their impacts. Continue reading Special Issue: The Ethics of Research on Activism