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Research ethics on sensitive topics

L’éthique dans les recherches en terrains sensibles

Epistemological and practical issues

Enjeux épistémologiques et pratiques

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Published on Monday, May 17, 2021 by João Fernandes

Summary

Ethics, defined as a “reflexive approach on the values and ends of scientific research” (Coutellec, 2019), is a constitutive dimension of research practice. Yet, its understanding and practice still divide opinions: juridical and practical measures vary depending on countries, institutions, universities and disciplines. Discussions on ethical issues remain limited within the confines of health and medical research or topics considered as sensitive by regulatory bodies like the French CNIL1. In this context, the understanding of ethics is restricted to the protection of information pertaining to participants’ ethno-racial origins, political and religious beliefs, sexuality and health. Broader ethical concerns (i.e. reflexivity, positionality, methodologies and methods) are seldom addressed – and even less in a collective way – by researchers, academics or practitioners. Not only do we need to understand the effects of research on the people it involves , but we also need to ascertain whether those effects are acceptable to all parties and how to limit those deemed undesirable.

Announcement

International conference, Paris (Aubervilliers), December 2-3, 2021

Argument

Ethics, defined as a “reflexive approach on the values and ends of scientific research” (Coutellec, 2019), is a constitutive dimension of research practice. Yet, its understanding and practice still divide opinions: juridical and practical measures vary depending on countries, institutions, universities and disciplines. The formalisation of ethics in research was initially developed in the United-States in the 1970’s, as part of biomedical experiments (Grady, 2015; Larouche;2019). In European research, these issues have been tackled much more recently (McKenzie, 2019). The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) implemented in 2018 is the first European initiative to develop a data protection code. Despite several attempts, many countries still have not elaborated an ethical and deontological regulation or code of research at the national level (Béliard, Eidelian, 2018; Bosa, 2008; Clair, 2016). Discussions on ethical issues remain limited within the confines of health and medical research or topics considered as sensitive by regulatory bodies like the French CNIL. In this context, the understanding of ethics is restricted to the protection of information pertaining to participants’ ethno-racial origins, political and religious beliefs, sexuality and health. Broader ethical concerns (i.e. reflexivity, positionality, methodologies and methods) are seldom addressed – and even less in a collective way – by researchers, academics or practitioners.

A research topic is considered sensitive when it concerns issues that are intimate, discreditable, illicit or overlooked, including research dealing with the suffering, injustice, insecurity and violence experienced by research participants and/or the researchers (e.g. research on sexual violence, conflict zones). Sensitive topics are thus topics where strong socio-political implications emerge (Bouillon, Fresia, Taillo, 2005; Robin, Join-Lambert, Mackiewicz, 2017), sometimes steeped with physical and emotional risks (Boumaza and Campana, 2007). Finally, the sensitivity of research is not only determined by the object of the research, but can also be the consequence of the way one approaches a theme and of theoretical choices that are made at the time of the research design (Hennequin (dir.), 2012). As a result, conducting sensitive research requires a specific protocol where particular attention is paid to the methodology, research participants, and research experiences.

This conference aims to provide an overview of the different ways in which ethical issues linked to sensitive topics are tackled, and the implications they raise for research participants, stakeholders in the field, and researchers in the contemporary context. More broadly it asks how ethical issues can be articulated with existing legal frameworks, various epistemological positionings, and the research practice itself. Particular attention will be devoted to understanding and navigating power relations (gender, age, sexualities, class, race…) in research ethics.The proposed reflexion will gather experiences from different scientific disciplines (sociology, demography, political science, development studies, anthropology, history, psychology, epidemiology, or law) and from different countries insofar as research frameworks vary and these issues are addressed differently depending on local contexts. Discussions of ethics in sensitive research encompasses not only data collection but rather the whole research process, including research design, theoretical standpoints, data collection, writing and dissemination. Submissions presented will be based on qualitative or quantitative data as well as mix-method.

Thematic axes

Themes that could be explored include, but are not limited to, the following:

  1. Regulations of research practices
  2. The researchers’ positioning when doing sensitive research
  3. Sensitive research and its impact(s) on researchers
  4. The impact(s) of sensitive research on the participants

Submission process

This call for submissions welcomes submissions in French or in English. Submissions may be based on scientific research, reflexive presentations, or various forms of empirical work. This call is addressed to researchers, professionals and activists, whose activities are related to sensitive topics and/or raise ethical issues.

Submission papers must be 3000 to 5000 signs long (spaces included) and include a title, an abstract, the main bibliographic references, as well as a short presentation of the author (status, scientific discipline, institutional affiliation). If the submission fits in with several axes (non-exhaustive list), it must be mentioned in the proposition. Once received, they will be sent anonymously to the members of the scientific committee for selection.

Applications must be sent

before June 15, 2021

at the following address: terrainssensibles2021@gmail.com. Results will be communicated in early September. The conference will take place on December 2-3, 2021 at the Centre des colloques of Campus Condorcet (Aubervilliers) if global health conditions permit it.

Scientific committee

  • Fatoumata Badini-Kinda, sociologist, professor at Université Joseph Ki-Zerbo (Burkina Faso)
  • Aude Béliard, sociologist, lecturer at Université de Paris (CERMES3, France)
  • Gil Bellis, demographer, tenured researcher at Ined (France)
  • Elisabeth Belmas, historian, professor emeritus in Modern History at Université Paris Nord (Iris, France)
  • Marc Bessin, sociologist, research director at CNRS (EHESS, Iris, France)
  • Isabelle Clair, sociologist, tenured researcher at CNRS (EHESS, Iris, France)
  • Léo Coutellec, ethics and epistemology of sciences, lecturer at Université Paris-Saclay (CESP, France)
  • Jean-Sébastien Eideliman, sociologist, lecturer at Université de Paris (CERLIS) et associated researcher at EHESS/ENS (CMH, France)
  • Didier Fassin, anthropologist and physician, professor at Institute for Advanced Study (Princeton University, USA) et course director at EHESS (Iris, France)
  • Michela Fusaschi, anthropologist, associated professor at Università Degli Studi Roma Tre (Italy)
  • Emilie Hennequin, management science, lecturer at Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne (PRISM, EMS, France)
  • Philippe Nkoma-Ntchemandji, anthropologist and statistician, lecturer at Université Saint Exupéry (PIRAL, Gabon)
  • Nicolas Sallée, sociologist, lecturer at Université de Montréal (CREMIS, Québec)

Organisation committee

  • Bellamine Rim, PhD student in demography, Université Paris 10 Nanterre, CRESPPA-GTM, Graduate School of Demography, Cridup
  • Boué Margaux, PhD student in sociology, Université Lumière-Lyon 2, Max Weber
  • Chaput Justine, PhD student in demography, Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, Cridup, Ined, Graduate School of Demography
  • Congy Juliette, PhD student in epidemiology, Université Paris-Saclay, Ined
  • Coussieu-Reyes Javiera, PhD student in contemporary history, Université Sorbonne Paris Nord, Pléiade, Iris
  • Maubert Camille, PhD student in international development, University of Edinburgh, Center of African Studies
  • Mullner Pauline, PhD student in sociology, Université de Paris, Cerlis, Ined
  • Rigot Virginie, PhD student in sociology, EHESS, Iris
  • Thizy Laurine, PhD student in sociology, Université Paris 8 Vincennes Saint-Denis, CRESPPA-CSU
  • Wicky Lucie, PhD student in sociology, EHESS, CMH, Ined

Places

  • Centre des colloques, Campus Condorcet - 8, cours des Humanités
    Aubervilliers, France (93322)

Date(s)

  • Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Keywords

  • colloque, éthique, recherche, terrains sensibles

Contact(s)

  • Rim Bellamine
    courriel : rim [dot] bellamine [at] parisnanterre [dot] fr

Information source

  • Rim Bellamine
    courriel : rim [dot] bellamine [at] parisnanterre [dot] fr

To cite this announcement

« Research ethics on sensitive topics », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Monday, May 17, 2021, https://calenda.org/875435

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