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Experiencing ethics oversight

25 August, 2009

I am starting a new study that aims to understand ethnographers’ subjective experience of ethics oversight – their memories of when and how they first became aware of ethics oversight, what they think and feel about it, whether and how they comply with it, and whether they think it makes ethnographic research more ethical or not.

I hope to compare the attitudes of researchers who spent most of their careers not seeking ethics clearance, a younger generation for whom it has always been standard, and those who started their research under one regime and now live under another.

I’m one of those researchers who has lived through two eras: when I first went to conduct my dissertation research, it wasn’t the practice for anthropologists in my department to seek ethics approval from the university’s Institutional Review Board (US equivalent of Australia’s Human Research Ethics Committees). But by the time I came back from the field, graduate students were getting IRB approval before starting research. For a long time, I felt furtive, like I had somehow failed to do something that I was supposed to do, and wondered whether I would ever be accused of unethical research practice (even though I didn’t think I had been unethical in my research). I didn’t understand that it was a changing era.

Now that I have a bit more perspective, I’m interested in knowing more about other researchers’ experiences of this process.  If you are interested in participating in the survey, please go to The survey will take between 15-30 minutes, depending on how detailed your responses are. All responses will, of course, be anonymous.

PS: I’ve tested that, and it really takes 15 minutes or less if you don’t spend a lot of time on the free answer questions. Which you might do if you have a juicy or provoking story to tell. But it won’t take much of your time. I hate it when people send me surveys that they say will take 5 minutes and they take 45 minutes.

–L.L. Wynn

4 Comments leave one →
  1. 25 August, 2009 6:30 pm

    tried … but there’s no option for the United States of America that I could find, and not even an “Other” option for the first “where is your research” question.

  2. liminal permalink
    25 August, 2009 9:14 pm

    The USA is missing from questions 6-7 😦

  3. 25 August, 2009 9:15 pm

    Sam, liminal, that’s so weird, I don’t know where the USA went in that list, I could swear it was there before! But thanks very much for catching it, it’s fixed now. Hopefully no other countries missing… or years…


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