Tag Archives: ethics review

DO ETHICS BOARDS AND COMMITTEES POSE A THREAT TO CRITICAL RESEARCH?

In more than 35 years of academic research I’ve sought information from thousands of people, and done hundreds of interviews. During that time, ethical concerns, regarding both the substance of my research and my dealings with informants and respondents, have always been top-of-mind. The concerns I raise here are not with research ethics as such, but with bureaucracies that have gone awry in well-intentioned but misguided efforts to supervise research in politics and public policy.
In my experience – which antedates ethics bureaucracies by many years – two ethical concerns have stood out. One is my obligation to examine the way power is wielded, and look for ways of addressing shortcomings. For example, I’ve recently directed six case studies in three Canadian cities to look into how the federal government can fit national policies to the requirements of distinct communities. Some years ago, in studies of urban development in Edmonton and Winnipeg, I identified bad planning practices and looked for the administrative, political and socio-economic causes. All of this is main-line politics and policy research, typical of that being carried out by many of my colleagues.

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