All research raises questions about the rigour, responsibility and respect of the ethical practices of researchers. As a result, there are strict, institutional frameworks in place to encourage and enforce ethical practice. However, some kinds of research create specific challenges, which may not be adequately addressed by these frameworks. This is particularly the case with participatory research, where the boundaries between researchers and ‘research subjects’ begin to blur. There is a host of issues that need to be carefully negotiated in this kind of research, including the ways power and control are negotiated, how people’s very personal experiences are shared and made public, and how the different needs and expectations of the participants are balanced in the design of the research process.
For ‘community-based participatory research’ (CBPR) – research that is grounded in the lived experiences of communities – there can be even more significant challenges to ensure such research is ethically sound. There is some extraordinary research practice in this area, which reveals profound insights into people’s lives. This guide focuses on the lessons learned by people working intensively in this area and provides a practical resource for anyone interested in developing more participatory approaches to their research.
How it works
The guide and case studies, developed by the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement (NCCPE) and Centre for Social Justice and Community Action, Durham University, can be used in:
- Training, teaching and learning about research ethics and community-based participatory research, and to encourage greater awareness and discussion about ethical issues in CBPR.
- Preparing to undertake research: the practice principles and guidelines can be used as the basis for preparing a working agreement and as a reference point throughout the research process.
- Undertaking institutional research ethics reviews: research institutions can use the guide as a benchmark for reviewing and revising applications that involve community-based participatory research, as well as their internal policies and procedures.
- Drawing up research funding guidance: funders can use the guide to review and revise funding applications, and existing policies and procedures.