Research methods and social responsibility
Wednesday 8 June 2011, 10.30 - 4.00
Lecture Theatre, The Manchester Dental Education Centre (MANDEC), Bridgeford Street, University of Manchester
This workshop is the first of a series of one-day meetings that we are organising on 'research methods and social responsibility'. The overarching aim of the meetings will be to explore cross-disciplinary perspectives on the methodological and ethical issues that arise in all research encounters. Our first meeting sets out to provoke a conversation between researchers either based at the University of Manchester or with strong connections to Manchester. Each of our speakers will give a short, ten minute presentation setting out the challenges presented by their particular research activities, and the ways in which they respond to these challenges. The day is divided into two broad themes; the first four talks discuss research that engages with conflict, disasters, suffering and advocacy; the second four address the question of how research is valued and evaluated more generally, raising questions about the links between social responsibility and wider issues concerning the ethics and politics of research more generally. Each set of four short talks will be followed by wider discussion and debate. In a final session we aim to take stock of the issues that have arisen during the day and identify questions that people would like to take forward in future events.
10.30 Welcome and introduction: Penny Harvey, CRESC and anthropology
10.35 - 12.30
Theme 1 - Suffering and Conflict: research methods and social responsibility
Chair: Penny Harvey
Jenny Hughes and Alison Jeffers, Theatre studies
When is it important to ‘make a difference’, and when is it important to avoid such intervention?
In what situations should a researcher protect and defend the privacy of those with whom they work, and when is transparency and openness more valuable? This joint presentation will draw on case studies from performance and war research.
David Hulme, Brooks World Poverty Institute
Repeat Interviews with poor people: Lessons from the ‘financial diaries’. When producing the public good of policy-relevant knowledge how should researchers deal with the private suffering of the people they are researching?
Maia Green, Social Anthropology
Participatory methods have been claimed as ethically less problematic that some other forms of research because they are organized around the inclusion of research subjects as research agents. In practice, the ethical claims of such approaches are no less compromised than those of other approaches to social research. Participatory methods are interesting in that they upfront the mechanics of converting discourse into data which is made visible through the performative enactment of research which is the distinctive characteristic of this approach. By thinking about methods as kinds of social institution we can better understand the unequal relations between researcher and researched and the conventions which make certain forms of knowledge.
Tony Redmond, HCRI.
Research in emergency humanitarian assistance requires challenging something that most people assume to be inherently benign. Data collection is difficult as many agencies either don't collect data and if they do regard it as "commercially sensitive" and are reluctant to share it. However if the most vulnerable in the world are to be helped then analysis of previous efforts is essential.
1.15 - 3.15
Theme 2 - Value and Evaluation: the ethics and politics of social responsibility
Chair: Angela Dale
Paul Chan, Civil Engineering
How can the research methods we employ articulate the ‘value(s)’ of social responsibility in a valid, reliable and responsible manner? What do we do with these ‘values’, especially when they are competing? Should we, as researchers, make ‘value judgements’ and seek consensus for more socially responsible practice? If so, how can we do that?
James Banks, Economics and IFS
Positive versus normative economics and the role of value judgements; the distinction between research, policy commentary and advocacy; the use and abuse of statistical evidence; other social responsibility issues surrounding the increasing use of administrative data and policy 'experiments' for economic and social research.
Evelyn Ruppert, Sociology CRESC and Open University
For some researchers, the analysis of how social research methods work and what they do constitutes an intervention. From investigating logics, rationalities, and techniques to the subjectivities, ontologies and realities performed by methods, the intention is to demonstrate how methods are agential and generative. What then are the ethics and politics of such interventions? What contributions do or can they make to how methods are practiced within and outside the academy?
Sarah Chan, Institute for Science, Ethics and Innovation
What is the relationship between "ethics in research" (the issues of social and ethical responsibility encountered by researchers, including social researchers, in the course of their work) and "research in ethics" (the set of subjects, methods, analytical approaches and outcomes that comprise ethics as a research discipline)? What is or should be the role of ethics research in shaping policy and practice for ethical research in other disciplines? How can ethics research be appropriately reflexive and integrate approaches, concepts and insights from other disciplines, particularly social research, on which it occasionally seeks to comment?
3.30 Discussion and future plans
Chair: Bertrand Taithe