Accountability to research participants: unresolved dilemmas and unravelling ethics
Ethnography and Education
Taylor and Francis
Drawing on findings from an ethnographic study of Romani Gypsy groups in England (1996–2000), along with data from follow-up work involving original and additional participants (2005–ongoing), this paper explores several ethical issues that arose. It traces developing relationships across a 13-year period, identifying the problems of attempting to construct a ‘research community’ consisting of individuals with diverse lifestyles, and at times, conflicting agendas. It problematises issues concerning the negotiation and maintenance of access, and considers, also, the prioritisation of certain voices at the expense of others, and the difficulties of ‘openness’ when the researcher is unsure where a project is heading. Rather than engaging with a full literature review of the themes discussed, this paper seeks to highlight the situated negotiation of ethics within a specific research context. The focus is on shifting events in which official codes of practice do not seem to provide an adequate means of navigation. The paper argues that it is not sufficient for the researcher to pay lip service to superficial guidelines, calling, instead, for deeper reflection that might lead to greater honesty with both oneself and the community/communities involved in research. It implies a need to react quickly to events in the field, informing participants about any perceived flaws and ambiguities in the original research design that may have emerged during data collection and led to changes of direction. Finally, it recommends that participants are fully involved in processes, including those that are interpretive, and that they, too, share any benefit of considering the research study, retrospectively, as an historical artefact.
Vol. 5, Issue 2, pp. 193 - 207