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Researching Ethically Across Cultures

Robinson-Pant, A. and Singal, N. (Guest editors)  (2013) Researching ethically across cultures: issues of knowledge, power and voiceSpecial Issue: Compare, 43 (4).

In recent years, a greater focus on cross-cultural research and on research undertaken by multidisciplinary national teams has raised significant challenges with regard to how educational research is conceptualised, conducted and disseminated in an ethical manner. Increasingly, in international and comparative educational research, it is being recognised that existing ethical codes and paradigms either do not sufficiently address such issues or tend to be rather restrictive and insensitive to multiple and complex cultural and contextual differences. For international students in UK higher educational institutions, these contrasting assumptions about values and practices within research can be even more evident, as they are often obliged to conform to the requirements of their UK university research ethics committee when conducting fieldwork in their home countries.

The special issue sets out to explore ethical issues and dilemmas encountered by educational researchers working across cultures sharing insights with each other into the differing values and assumptions that shape research and writing practices. The aim is to develop a deeper understanding of the relationship between researcher and the researched; issues of particular concern during field research, such as negotiating access and giving back; and the construction and ownership of knowledge.

The contributions in this special issue move beyond instrumental discussions of research governance and further broaden the scope from an emphasis on access’(for instance, whether or how research participants will give informed consent) to a deeper consideration of the ethical implications of constructing and negotiating research and policy texts across cultures. The themes emerged partly from a symposium, in July 2011, organised by the Centre for Applied Research in Education (CARE) at the University of East Anglia on ‘Internationalising Research Ethics’. This event brought together researchers to deliberate on the following questions:

  1. Can research ethics be considered a matter of common sense’?
  2. What does this mean in practice for researchers working in unfamiliar cultural contexts?
  3. How do researchers negotiate hierarchies of power that inform institutional ethical procedures and practices?
  4. What ethical issues underpin the construction (and sharing) of knowledge, particularly through written texts?
  5. Who owns the research text and what does it mean to‘give back’in unfamiliar cultural contexts?
  6. Collaboration and contestation: how do North South hierarchies influence the way in which research is designed and conducted, particularly within multi-agency funded projects?

Robinson-Pant, A. and Singal, N.  (2013) Researching ethically across cultures: issues of knowledge, power and voice, Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education, 43:4, 417-421, DOI: 10.1080/03057925.2013.797719

Robinson-Pant, A., and Singal, N. (2013) Research ethics in comparative and international education: reflections from anthropology and health, Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education, 43:4 443-463 DOI:10.1080/03057925.2013.797725