ANZEA Conference 2022
10 - 12 October 2022 | Te Papa, Wellington
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Wednesday, October 12 • 11:30am - 12:00pm
A.10 Ethics review and community-based practice

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In this session I will share my experience of ethics reviews and approvals and what has often played out in practice (ANZEA does not have its own ethics committee).

In my experience, ethics reviews have (but not always) resulted in long participant information sheets (which few people ever read), and detailed, prescriptive research plans (that often change when fieldwork is underway). In these instances, there is a gap between ethics committees ideals on the one hand, and the reality of doing socially informed research on the other. Long participant information sheets (the last one we had approved was 6 pages) may be useful as an official accountability document, but they are usually not helpful to community members wondering what we want to do. Secondly, there is an expectation that the approved research plan will be followed through to the end of the project. This expectation may hold in the context of positivist social science, where the plan to collect data can stand independent of context. However, qualitative methodologies, which are what I often employ, are responsive to the particulars, needs and interests of the people researchers work with. The plan also needs to evolve based on what is learnt. All of this is impossible to predict in advance, certainly on longer projects.

An alternative to the rule-book approach to ethics is ANZEA’s principles-based framework. I see this as a more suitable guide for ethical evaluation practice in community settings. “Integrity” is the core value underlying the principles, which means “the practices, processes and products of evaluation are to be respectful of people, undertaken with care, methodologically responsive and appropriate, trustworthy, undertaken with competence and useful”. I’m not saying we don’t need to set out with a clear plan. We do. But the plan needs to be transparent, responsive and useful to the people we want to work with.  

avatar for Tony O'Connor

Tony O'Connor

Point & Associates

Wednesday October 12, 2022 11:30am - 12:00pm NZDT