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Table of contents :
Table of Contents
Notes on contributors
1 Introduction: ethical event horizons in criminological research
2 Research ethics, researchers’ responsibilities, and the ethical dilemmas in research with young people about their socio-political participation
3 Gaining little things and losing big things: the ethics of using deception to gain institutional access
4 Befriending police officers: reflecting on the ethics of my deceptive buddy researcher tactics
5 Practitioner–researchers, ethical reflexivity, and the need to negotiate ethics on multiple institutional levels
6 Cross-cultural and comparative research in Northern Ireland: insider, outsider, Other
7 Prison officer training: transient identity during immersive ethnography
8 The ethics of researching “hard to reach” populations: the case of “hidden” older illegal drug users and the attendant advantages of an ethical approach
9 The keepers of secrets: ethics and the emotional labour of working with privileged populations during criminological research
10 Dreams and nightmares: interviewing research participants who have experienced psychological trauma
11 Fear and loathing in the Philippines: the ethics of researching President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs
12 Conclusion: an ethical imagination
Ethical Dilemmas in International Criminological Research
Building on the editors’ previous publication, Engaging with Ethics in International Criminological Research, this new book brings together a fresh collection of leading international scholars tackling ethical dilemmas in criminological research. Contributors address how they have experienced and addressed ethical issues in their research, and how they have balanced the benefits and harms of doing such research for both the researcher and the researched. Ethical Dilemmas in International Criminological Research draws on various issues across a range of jurisdictions and political and social contexts, including cybercrime and transgressive online actions; state and police responses to crime; the war on drugs; working with traumatised participants in criminological research; punishment and prison; and sex, sexualities, and gender. Moreover, this collection aims to offer a truly international perspective, including insights from research projects in the Global South. This book is essential reading for junior scholars just starting out with original research, as well as more seasoned researchers looking to gain insights into the challenges of criminological research in other cultural contexts. It is also instructive reading for students taking courses in criminological and social research methods. Michael Adorjan is Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Calgary, Canada, and Fellow with the Centre for Criminology, University of Hong Kong. Rosemary Ricciardelli is Professor in Sociology at Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada.
Routledge Advances in Criminology
Reinforcement Sensitivity Theory A Metatheory for Biosocial Criminology Anthony Walsh Mafia Violence Political, Symbolic, and Economic Forms of Violence in Camorra Clans Edited by Monica Massari and Vittorio Martone Analytical Criminology Integrating Explanations of Crime and Deviant Behavior Karl-Dieter Opp Uniting Green Criminology and Earth Jurisprudence Jack Lampkin Social Bridges and Contexts in Criminology and Sociology Reflections on the Intellectual Legacy of James F. Short, Jr. Edited by Lorine A. Hughes and Lisa M. Broidy Criminology and Democratic Politics Edited by Tom Daems and Stefaan Pleysier The Pleasure of Punishment Magnus Hörnqvist Machine Learning for Criminology and Crime Research At the Crossroads Gian Maria Campedelli Ethical Dilemmas in International Criminological Research Edited by Michael Adorjan and Rosemary Ricciardelli For more information about this series, please visit: www.routledge.com/ Routledge-Advances-in-Criminology/book-series/RAC
Ethical Dilemmas in International Criminological Research Edited by Michael Adorjan and Rosemary Ricciardelli
Designed cover image: Charles Adorjan First published 2023 by Routledge 4 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon Og4 4RN and by Routledge 605 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10158 Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business © 2023 selection and editorial matter, Michael Adorjan and Rosemary Ricciardelli; individual chapters, the contributors The right of Michael Adorjan and Rosemary Ricciardelli to be identified as the authors of the editorial material, and of the authors for their individual chapters, has been asserted in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Trademark notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to infringe. British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Names: Adorjan, Michael, editor. | Ricciardelli, Rose, 1979– editor. Title: Ethical dilemmas in international criminological research / edited by Michael Adorjan and Rosemary Ricciardelli. Description: Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon ; New York, NY : Routledge, 2023. | Includes bibliographical references and index. Subjects: LCSH: Criminology—Research—Moral and ethical aspects. Classification: LCC HV6024.5 .E84 2023 | DDC 174/.9364—dc23/ eng/20221031 LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2022048987 ISBN: 978-1-032-14867-0 (hbk) ISBN: 978-1-032-14868-7 (pbk) ISBN: 978-1-003-24151-5 (ebk) DOI: 10.4324/9781003241515 Typeset in Times New Roman by Apex CoVantage, LLC
Notes on contributors 1 Introduction: ethical event horizons in criminological research
MICHAEL ADORJAN AND ROSEMARY RICCIARDELLI
2 Research ethics, researchers’ responsibilities, and the ethical dilemmas in research with young people about their socio-political participation
PAUL VINOD KHIATANI AND WING HONG CHUI
3 Gaining little things and losing big things: the ethics of using deception to gain institutional access
4 Befriending police officers: reflecting on the ethics of my deceptive buddy researcher tactics
5 Practitioner–researchers, ethical reflexivity, and the need to negotiate ethics on multiple institutional levels
ANA BORGES JELINIC
6 Cross-cultural and comparative research in Northern Ireland: insider, outsider, Other
7 Prison officer training: transient identity during immersive ethnography HELEN ARNOLD AND ROSEMARY RICCIARDELLI
8 The ethics of researching “hard to reach” populations: the case of “hidden” older illegal drug users and the attendant advantages of an ethical approach
DAVID MOXON AND JAIME WATERS
9 The keepers of secrets: ethics and the emotional labour of working with privileged populations during criminological research
KATE LOWE AND ALEXANDRA RIDGWAY
10 Dreams and nightmares: interviewing research participants who have experienced psychological trauma
MARI TODD-KVAM AND DAVID RODRÍGUEZ GOYES
11 Fear and loathing in the Philippines: the ethics of researching President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs
WILLIAM N. HOLDEN
12 Conclusion: an ethical imagination
MICHAEL ADORJAN AND ROSEMARY RICCIARDELLI
Michael Adorjan is an Associate Professor at the University of Calgary. His research and teaching centre on youth and cyber risk, drawing from theoretical areas including dramaturgy and social constructionism, surveillance, and privacy. Recent publications examine both educator and parent understandings and responses to cyberbullying and other forms of online-mediated conflict and harm, and restorative practices in response to cyber risk. He also publishes on Hong Kong, especially responses to youth crime and public perceptions of police in Hong Kong, and, with Rosemary Ricciardelli, is involved in research examining correctional officers in Canada. Helen Arnold is Associate Professor in Criminology at the University of East Anglia (UEA) in the United Kingdom. She has been working or conducting research in prisons for over 25 years as a volunteer, as a Research Officer for Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons, and as a Research Associate at the University of Cambridge Institute of Criminology where she is an associate member of the Prisons Research Centre. She has authored numerous publications on prison life and on the work and role of prison officers in particular. Her current research interests centre on prison officer selection and training, psychological and emotional experiences and well-being, and career trajectories, as well as on the role of prison officers (and prisons) in desistance and rehabilitation. Wing Hong Chui is Professor and Head in the Department of Applied Social Sciences at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University. His research interests include youth studies, social work, criminology, and criminal justice. His recent journal publications have appeared in the British Journal of Social Work, Punishment & Society, Trauma, Violence, & Abuse, and Journal of Interpersonal Violence. Among his recent book publications, he co-authored The Hong Kong Legal System (2nd Edition, 2020) and co-edited Research Methods for Law (2nd Edition, 2017) and Understanding Criminal Justice in Hong Kong (2nd Edition, Routledge, 2017). Anna Eriksson, Associate Professor based at Monash University, Australia, is an international scholar in the areas of comparative penology, restorative justice, and criminal justice reform. She has held several Australian Research Council
grants that examine the practices and policies of imprisonment in Australia and the Nordic countries, and their relationship with social, political, and cultural variables in different national and international contexts. She has undertaken research topics ranging from restorative justice and paramilitaries in Northern Ireland; children of prisoners; and the infringement system and its impact on disadvantaged populations in Australia. She also is a leading researcher on neurodisability and criminal justice in Australia, and she combines empirical research with interdisciplinary theoretical scholarship and industry engagements with the aim of impacting criminal justice practice. David Rodríguez Goyes is a Colombo-Norwegian scholar focused on crime, violence, and victimhood. Early in his career, he worked as a lawyer representing people accused of drug trafficking. He then participated in the Colombian peace process as a rapporteur, interviewing war victims and guerrilla members. In 2018, he earned his PhD degree in criminology from the University of Oslo. Currently, he is a senior researcher at the same institution. His main lines of research are environmental conflicts in the Global South; Indigenous issues; consumerism, globalisation, and crime; and the politics and ethics of knowledge production about crime. William N. Holden, an inactive member of the Law Society of Alberta, is Associate Professor in the Department of Geography at the University of Calgary, in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. He is an aspiring expert on the Philippines, where he has been 11 times and has visited every major island except for Mindoro and Negros. His research interests include the Philippines, the meteorological hazards of anthropogenic climate change, the efficacy of mining as a development strategy, insurgency/counterinsurgency warfare, state terrorism, and the roles played by liberation theology and Maoism as counter-hegemonic discourses. Laura Huey is Professor in Sociology at the University of Western Ontario, Editor of Police Practice & Research, a member of the College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists of the Royal Society of Canada (RSC), a member of the RSC’s COVID-19 Taskforce, and Chair of its Working Group on Mental Health and Policing. Recently, she founded an international working group on Police & Crime Data and co-runs #CrimComm, a global network promoting knowledge mobilisation. Formerly, she was Director of the Canadian Society of Evidence-Based Policing and Senior Research Fellow with the (U.S.) National Police Foundation. Ana Borges Jelinic is a Brazilian research–practitioner based in Australia. She graduated in Psychology with Honours at PUC-SP, Brazil. She holds post-graduation qualifications from Griffith University and the University of Queensland (UQ), including her PhD awarded in 2020. For over a decade, she has been a member of Women’s Community Aid Association’s management board and a practitioner working with migrant survivors of gendered violence. In 2022, she was the recipient of the Andrew Little Award for teaching
excellence at the Australian College of Applied Professions (ACAP) and joined the Disrupting Violence Beacon at Griffith University as Research Fellow. Paul Vinod Khiatani is a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Applied Social Sciences at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University. His research interests broadly include social movement studies, youth studies, and political sociology. He has published in a variety of peer-reviewed journals including, but not limited to, the British Journal of Social Work, Punishment & Society, Child Indicators Research, Journal of Interpersonal Violence, and Deviant Behavior. Kate Lowe holds the position of Postdoctoral Fellow within the Centre for Criminology at the University of Hong Kong. Her research focuses on drug use and supply, risk (edgework), gender, and harm reduction in Asia. She completed her PhD in Sociology at the University of Hong Kong in 2020. Her thesis focused on the hidden use of cocaine among privileged expatriates in Hong Kong. Her postdoctoral research builds on understandings of drug use supply within hidden populations during the global pandemic. David Moxon, formerly a senior lecturer in criminology at Sheffield Hallam University, is no longer employed in academia but continues to research and write on criminology in an independent capacity. He is the co-author (with Jaime Waters) of Illegal Drug Use through the Lifecourse (2017, Routledge) and the author of Colin Sumner: Criminology through the Looking Glass (2020). Rosemary Ricciardelli is Professor (PhD, Sociology) in the School of Maritime Studies and Research Chair in Safety, Security, and Wellness, at Memorial University’s Fisheries and Marine Institute. Elected to the Royal Society of Canada, her research centres on evolving understandings of gender, vulnerabilities, risk, and experiences and issues within different facets of the criminal justice system and among mariners. She has published 11 books, over 190 journal articles, and nearly 50 chapters all in the areas of PSP, criminalised persons, and wellness – broadly defined. As a sex and gender researcher, her interests lay in the social health, identity construction, and lived experiences of individuals. Alexandra Ridgway is a socio-legal scholar interested in how law shapes family and personal lives. She has investigated the role of law in experiences of family breakdown and crisis, especially those involving divorce and/or family violence. Much of her research has centred around how the law affects the family lives of migrants. Alexandra completed her PhD in Sociology at the University of Hong Kong in 2020 where she remains Fellow at the Centre for Criminology. Ajay Sandhu holds a doctorate in sociology and specialises in qualitative criminological research. His work examines the relationship between video surveillance and police authority, with a twist. Rather than exploring how police officers use cameras to monitor crime, he studies how cameras are used to
Contributors monitor the police. His research has led to insights into police experiences in the era of smartphones, wearable cameras, and YouTube.
Mari Todd-Kvam is a clinical psychologist and scholar. Previous experience includes clinical work with persons who use intimate partner violence and persons exposed to trauma, and as a working researcher at the Norwegian Centre for Violence and Traumatic Stress Studies (NKVTS). She is currently writing a PhD at the University of Uppsala and NKVTS on self, identity and moral emotions in young persons who have committed sexual transgressions, as well as continuing her clinical work. Her research interests are research ethics, change work, desistance, understanding the experiences, challenges, and opportunities of the professional helper. Jaime Waters is a lecturer and staff tutor at the Open University and also teaches criminology at the University of Sheffield. Her research interests include illegal drug use, gambling and gambling harms, research methodology, and emotional labour. She is co-author (with David Moxon) of Illegal Drug Use through the Lifecourse (2017, Routledge) and (with Vicky Heap) Mixed Methods in Criminology (2019, Routledge). She co-edited Emotional Labour in Criminal Justice and Criminology (2020, Routledge).
Introduction Ethical event horizons in criminological research Michael Adorjan and Rosemary Ricciardelli
There are so many stories to tell of criminology researchers who grapple with ethical issues and dilemmas while conducting their research. These dilemmas can take many different forms, from the nuance of data collection to the interpersonal relationships that emerge and conflict between research positions. This current book picks up where our first book, Engaging with Ethics in Criminological Research (Adorjan & Ricciardelli, 2016), essentially “left off”. In our previous book, we sought to provide a refreshing angle on research ethics, where, rather than focus on the procedures of research ethics and research ethics boards (i.e. a guide to students regarding how to prepare for a research ethics application),1 the international contributors provided valuable reflections on the processes and challenges related to ethics while conducting criminological research in the field. They told their stories of doing criminological research, including in spaces where those being researched were engaged in criminalised behaviours or where the details of working in partnership with organisations such as police and correctional services tweaked processes and how to manage expectations alongside safety and security needs. The collection’s strength, beyond the global scope of contributors, was its centring on ethical contexts, dilemmas, and the realpolitik of conducting criminological research. Topics and themes included the importance of developing an “ethical imagination” about criminological research, the politics of ethics while conducting research, including research with prisoners and informed consent practices; research with Indigenous peoples; research on and with police; as well as ethical issues arising from carceral (prison) tours, and research involving “dark net” cryptomarkets. Recognising there was so much more to unpack when we talk about the ethics of criminological research – so much left unsaid and not taught in courses – and following in the path established by that first book, we seek here to explore ethical processes and dilemmas which are often under the radar of ethics board purview but also beyond. Attention to the ramifications of formal breaches of ethics, or particularly egregious (at least from present-day perspective) violations of ethical processes, is readily available (e.g. Babbie, 2004; McArthur, 2009; Tolich, 2014). Rather than focusing on such matters here, we opt instead to highlight dilemmas that are not indicative of formal ethical breaches but instead present more subtle but still present ethical issues that matter. They involve decisions DOI:10.4324/9781003241515-1
Michael Adorjan and Rosemary Ricciardelli
made at every stage of research from initial recruitment, survey and interview schedule design, participant recruitment, data collection, writing up of research results, and knowledge exchange with various publics. These decisions, those tied to how data are collected, interpreted, and later analysed, require what we may consider an ethical imagination – a consistent, active reflection of how a researcher’s choices reflect wider historical contexts, relations of power, and are often mediated by privilege – specifically a power – however identified – linked to the status of university affiliation. Process decisions matter for how participants are represented in research, but there is a blind spot, one which some of the contributors in this book highlight – that decisions which do not require a report to an ethics board may still involve much emotional labour for researchers themselves, labour which is not often explicated in formal research outputs (Hochschild, 2012). Emotional labour, for instance, may play an important role in developing rapport with participants, especially those who differ from the researcher in terms of their political values, beliefs, etc. (cf. Smith & Lorentzon, 2005). Ethics boards are necessarily concerned with how participants are treated in the processes of engaging with research – for example, questions of informed consent, well-justified rationalisations if some deception is involved, how the assent of children is secured alongside parental consent, whether intermediaries helping with recruitment are able to coerce participation, and so forth. While it may not be realistic to expect ethics boards to also prioritise considerations of risk and vulnerability with researchers themselves, the dilemmas researchers experience matter, and many of our contributors demonstrate why. Of course, we recognise that methodological considerations, including those tied to study design and theoretical investigations, are and should be beyond the purview of ethics boards. We chose to produce this book, so close in goals to our first edited collection on research ethics, with a certain curious excitement. We realised that while wide ranging, the reflections offered in our first book only skimmed the surface of “tales from the ethical field” that warrant our collective attention. We also listened to those who read our first book and offered generous feedback regarding omissions and possibilities for follow-up. First, recognising that our first book featured almost exclusively qualitative criminologists (i.e. criminologists whose ethical issues emerged through qualitative methodological frameworks and choices), we aimed to find more quantitative criminologists who may experience different forms of ethical dilemmas based on, say, the acquisition of large datasets, and issues of privacy and confidentiality related to internet-based databases and survey platforms (e.g. survey instruments with data stored on servers in the United States may be subject to Patriot Act requests). Candidly, we were unable to find quantitative criminologists who were able to contribute to this book, despite some we approached who expressed interest. We choose to be open about this omission here, to indicate at the very least that we are aware that this book continues to emphasise the experiences of qualitative researchers but recognise that ethical dilemmas pertain very much to quantitative research as well. However, the current book includes greater inclusion of scholarship conducted in the
Introduction 3 Global South, including by researchers from the region. This is important, as too often criminology is considered, often unconsciously, as reflecting scholarship in Western liberal democracies, especially the United States or the United Kingdom. Criminology is a reflexive scientific enterprise which is only beginning to come to terms with its own presumptions, prejudices, and biases – biases which are at least partially reflected by the presumption that its most legitimate products emerge from the Anglo-Global North, the United States in particular (Aas, 2012; cf. Xu et al., 2013). Ethics in criminological research are laced with challenges in the field, from gaining access to collecting data to knowledge translation after data analysis. The “hiccups” along the way are expected, even anticipated, but never truly discussed. Thus, our objective in the current collection is to draw attention to these challenges and choices, and explore how they are navigated with a lens to research success, referring to the creating of empirical and sound knowledge that can also impact practices and society more broadly. The remainder of our introduction provides an overview of the chapters that follow.
Chapter overview In Chapter 2, our first substantive chapter, Research Ethics, Researchers’ Responsibilities, and the Ethical Dilemmas in Research with Young People about their Socio-political Participation, Paul Vinod Khiatani and Wing Hong Chui reflect on how, over the last 5 years, there has been an unprecedented upsurge of sociopolitical participation in Hong Kong among the youth – particularly college and university students. This upsurge is not without consequences, but more so draws attention to how the implementation of the National Security Law on June 30, 2020, has impacted how young people advocate for socio-political change or express their sentiments. Against this background, the authors reflect on their experiences conducting research with youth in Hong Kong about their participation in socio-political activism. Their focus is on the emergent ethical dilemmas, as they conducted research between 2016 and 2021, tied to participant recruitment, surveying, and interviewing. The authors speak to the role of gatekeepers in barring research participation, the need for transparent consent-seeking and recruitment (particularly when circumstances around data collection can produce fear), and how to work with data with “unresponsive” participants. They speak to the need to protect both the identity and the data from participants, the ramifications of failing, as well as the need to be flexible and seriously considerate of the risk participants perceive in their participation. This chapter outlines how difficult it can be to anticipate ethical dilemmas – challenges that may arise during data collection – recognising the COVID-19 pandemic has likely exacerbated these dilemmas. But centralise that, in all cases, ethics are an ongoing concern, evolving and transitioning throughout a study. An eye to ethics is always necessary, what the authors refer to as situational ethical mindfulness, to manage the emotions that come with research, can impact the quality of research, and the well-being and safety of all involved.
Michael Adorjan and Rosemary Ricciardelli
Our previous book included chapters addressing collaborations with police and ethical dilemmas that emerge from these collaborations at all stages of research. In this book, Laura Huey angles another important dimension, centring on issues of deception towards police, and wider implications for researchers who are seeking to build evidence-based policies and practices in partnerships with police organisations. In Chapter 3, Huey advocates evidence-based collaborations with police which, she argues, are crucial to help both understand these problems and point to directions for viable solutions. Her chapter, given this position, is critical of those who may present to police plans for such collaboration but who, she argues, practice seemingly intentional deception given what Huey argues are alternative agendas. Police, to some academics, Huey argues, are “natural enemies to one’s social cause”, yet asks if deception (defined as intentional misleading of research participants) is warranted to “expose real or perceived harmful practices”, or if there are other unintended consequences. Part of the problem, Huey argues, is that Canadian Tri-Council agencies (and, presumably, research ethics boards approving research projects) incentivize the funding of research where deceptive practices are permitted in cases of critical research with institutions and organisations not normally accessible. In Huey’s case, deliberate intention means approaching police with the intention to collaborate and build evidence, but ultimately reneging on this promise. This chapter shifts to focus on the unintended consequences of doing so. Huey highlights how police–scholar collaborations take up many resources, which are wasted where partnerships do not follow through on research agreements. Most significantly, Huey underscores how trust is besmirched between not only particular scholars but also wider academic communities, including those who wish to foster collaborations with police. Huey writes pointedly, “for many police practitioners, their sole experience with researchers has come in the form of interactions that have left them feeling duped. . . . The repercussions of this lost of trust fall on all other researchers”. Unlike the United States, with well-established research programmes with police, Canadian scholarship in the form of partnerships is very much lacking and underfunded (Griffiths et al., 2014). Of course Huey’s arguments raise wider questions about whether evidence-based research in collaboration with police is itself ethical, or perhaps if critical approaches can exist alongside such collaborations. In Chapter 4, titled Befriending Police Officers: Reflecting on the Ethics of my Deceptive Buddy Researcher Tactics, Ajay Sandhu speaks to the ethics of research tactics when building rapport with potential participants. In this chapter, he outlines his strategies to collect data and the ethical realities that underpin these strategies. Sandhu’s starting point is police officers are reluctant to participate in research – an arguable position given not all would agree. However, he notes there are academics who do take this position and draws on his own ethnographic experience conducting research with police to describe the challenges he has overcome in data collection. He recognises that not all scholars and academics support his tactics and owns this position when writing about the “buddy researcher” strategy. The strategy, he defines, is a tactically deceptive process that involves refraining from sharing perspectives and controlled disclosure to build rapport. He writes
Introduction 5 about the value he places on gaining the trust of police and uses his strategy to perform and impression manage with the aim of presenting to police as more sympathetic to the police institution than he is in truth. Throughout this chapter, Sandhu draws on his personal experiences conducting qualitative research using the buddy researcher strategy tactics to varying degrees. These tactics include “responding without responding” and “faking it”, which he explains and then discusses with an ethical lens. He also speaks to processes he employs to balance his buddy research with obtaining informed consent. Overall, his tactics are dramaturgical as per Goffman (1959) and he makes clear that his tactics neither mislead participants nor misrepresent the study objectives. In Chapter 5, Practitioner–researchers, ethical reflexivity, and the need to negotiate ethics on multiple institutional levels, Ana Borges Jelinic explores positionality, specifically her position as a practitioner in the same field in which she conducts research. She writes of her experience navigating approvals from ethics boards and the ethics in her data collection and broader research. Her work centres on acknowledging positionality when being a researcher and practitioner in the same field – that is, where her clients/patients are also her research participants. Jelinic draws attention to the tensions she experienced with ethics committees, and how such tensions – such as perceptions of risk in the research – can shape how researchers experience and engage with ethics throughout their research project. Describing the trajectory of her study, from the original research project to that approved by ethics, she speaks to her interest in interviewing “sponsored women”, referring to migrant women who follow a partner visa pathway due to domestic and family violence, about how violence and mental health developed as the immigration process progressed. Interested in sponsored women’s interactions with the department of immigration, she unpacks how the study evolved due to ethics committee interactions and how such experiences interfered with her ethics reflexivity. Highlighting the positives, in what can be a cumbersome and flawed process, she demonstrates how ethics processes can help create understanding and opportunity for “non-traditional” research processes in otherwise “traditional” research departments. Jelinic’s contribution reveals how being a practitioner and researcher in the same space can create anxiety but can be overcome with growth for a collective rather than just individual project. In Chapter 6, Anna Eriksson revisits her doctoral research conducted in Northern Ireland. Navigating an outsider role (as a Swedish graduate student) researching restorative community-based projects run by Provisional Irish Republican Army and Ulster Volunteer Force, Eriksson’s “embedded ethnography” included interviews with practitioners in both Republic and Loyalist communities, as well as volunteers, victims, offenders, and families who participated in the projects. A quantitative component also included over 1000 cases pertaining to the projects. A cross-cultural lens became salient as the research progressed, given the ethical choices related to which communities to focus on. Eriksson writes “if I had focused on only one of these communities/groups, I risked misunderstanding or misrepresenting the complex dynamics that impacted the delivery and experience of both formal and informal justice in the jurisdiction”. This chapter proceeds
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with a focus on the challenges related to Eriksson’s status as an insider, outsider, and/or Other. Awareness from one group that a researcher is also involved with their “Other” presents significant challenges. “As a researcher”, Eriksson writes, “you can be ‘tainted’ by having spent time in the Other community”. Synergistic with other contributors who write about small talk and inquiries from participants aimed to ascertain political leanings and beliefs, Eriksson writes about striving to engender trusting relations with significant gatekeepers. This often entailed informal interactions while “hanging out” where Eriksson was asked about her views on whether Sweden was a Protestant country, and even her views on the music group ABBA. Ethical decisions were here adapted to particular interactions, with Eriksson “choosing what I disclosed, when, and to whom [which entailed] conscious decisions as to my positionality as a researcher”. Balancing this rapport and navigating these interactions had ethical consequences in terms of how antagonistic groups were included and represented, but this also led to Eriksson feeling the need to be “always on” – a theme explored by a number of our contributors. An arguably unique set of research experiences is shared by Helen Arnold and Rosemary Ricciardelli in Chapter 7, Prison Officer Training: Transient Identity during Immersive Ethnography. Both prison scholars reflect on their separate but comparable experiences undertaking formal prison officer training programmes in England and Canada. Doing so was not, of course, to train to work as a prison officer, but rather an ethnographic exercise to “get close” to correctional recruits and gain a sense of insider knowledge regarding the experience and circumstances involved. Considered a form of appreciative inquiry (Elliott, 1999; Liebling et al., 2001; Ricciardelli, 2022), the goal was to generate degrees of empathy, even sympathy, for the positions and experiences of those undergoing the training. However, ethical dilemmas were raised regarding the liminal role status both researchers took on – “we were never an officer but never just a researcher”, they state. The ambiguities related to only selective disclosures of their status as researchers – disclosures which they justified given that other recruits being observed were not “research participants” in the formal sense. If anything, Arnold and Ricciardelli were themselves the participants in an autoethnographic experiment. Dilemmas were also centred on the particularly personal stresses that come from being away from personal relations, family, and children for weeks at a time. Arnold and Ricciardelli write: “data collecting and living become blurred, perhaps indistinguishable. When are you ‘on’ as a researcher; while conducting participant observation, are you ever really ‘off’ stage?” This chapter explicates how these researchers navigated disclosure, deceit, and consent. Moreover, it unpacks and applies the difference between “formal deceit” and “organic deceit” – the latter argued to better apply to the circumstances explored in this chapter. The researchers had to navigate how to respond when they heard potentially harmful information or misinformation, with pressure to adhere to a neutral stance. Finally, this chapter highlights some of the ethical issues related to exiting the field – in this case, what happened after the training programmes concluded. Some time ago, Alexander Liazos (1972) critiqued the sociology of deviance (and we may argue, criminology by proxy), for its singular attention to visible forms of deviance, which act to reinforce hegemonic visions of what criminality
Introduction 7 looks like, especially who we think of when envisioning a “criminal”. Moreover, this focus, Liazos argued, offsets the very much criminal activities of the economic and political elites. Consider Chapter 8 by David Moxon and Jaime Waters, which, while not examining criminal “power elites”, we see responding to Liazos in its illuminating a less visible population in criminological research: older users of illegal drugs. Moxon and Waters revisit their published research to explore and elaborate on the ethical processes and challenges their project entailed (Moxon & Waters, 2016; Waters, 2015). Ethical dilemmas for Moxon and Waters centred on the potentially incriminating information disclosed to them by older (over 40) users of drugs deemed illegal in England (most participants used cannabis). The research not only challenges popular conceptions of drug users as young but also involves participants who include professionals, academics, and others who have “much to lose” if their drug use were revealed publicly. The ethical dilemmas here pertained to safeguarding the trust and promises of confidentiality that produced challenges at every stage of the research process. First, participant recruitment: Moxon and Waters detail how closely they adhered to ethical protocols in recruiting participants, including their engagement with local organisations who vied for the legitimacy of the researchers to potential participants. Nevertheless, they received – for instance, during online forum recruitment – a number of suspicious responses from those who saw the advertised research call. Were these researchers undercover police officers engaged in a “sting” operation? Here, Moxon and Waters indicate how much publicised cases of where police approached academics to try to gain access to participants likely leave a wake of distrust among “deviance” populations who, it must be expected, are suspect of being approached to discuss the Achilles Heel of their legitimacy. Moxon and Waters next detail the difficulties, related to these issues, with their snowball sampling methodology – a difficult task among hidden populations who very much wish to remain hidden, and often lack knowledge of a social network of others engaged in the same activity. Details regarding how ethical protocols were managed in cases where interviews were, finally, arranged, point to the importance of taking serious ethics board decisions and protocols throughout the research process. Moxon and Waters shift lastly to the ethical issues and decisions made subsequent to data collection. Decisions here relate to, for instance, who produces the transcripts to ensure confidentiality, and regarding celerity in destruction of identifying information. Here, Moxon and Waters conclude with a theme raised by a number of our contributors – ethical decisions involve not only researchers and their participants but also wider communities, including not only wider groups from which participants are drawn but also groups of academics. Moxon and Waters write “continuing and openended efforts at protection have the potential to assist, however subtly and intangibly, the wider community of scholarly researchers”. Closely synergistic with Moxon and Waters, in Chapter 9 Kate Lowe and Alexandra Ridgway detail ethical dilemmas related to the emotional labour of keeping secrets while researching privileged populations in Hong Kong. The emotional labour involved – a frequent theme across our chapters – may extend well beyond data collection, with researchers having to be “always on”, especially those who maintain informal friendships with and socialise with after the formal
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data collection. In fact, the blurring of the lines between formal data collection and informal rapport and relationships is central to Lowe and Ridgway’s chapter. In contrast with the older, hidden illegal drug users in Moxon and Waters’ study, in this chapter the authors centre on elite expatriates in Hong Kong. Lowe and Ridgway observe that criminology has only recently begun examining emotional impacts on researchers examining the elite (Coetzee, 2020; Lancaster, 2017). Lowe interviewed and conducted participant observation with recreational cocaine users in Hong Kong, examining the illegal substance’s use and supply. Ridgway interviewed migrant wives in Hong Kong, mostly expatriates, who experience marital breakdown and thus precarity given their shared dependent visa status in the special administrative region of China. In this chapter, the authors maintain a focus on how both researchers became “secrets keepers” to maintain participant confidentiality – an approach involving significant emotional labour. The expatriate communities being so closely knit as well as the legal vulnerabilities faced by their participants became primary ethical considerations. Lowe and Ridgway detail the steps involved in protecting participants’ confidentiality as secrets keepers, especially considering the relatively small circles of expatriate communities in Hong Kong. Well outside the ambit of formal ethics review board oversight, equally challenging became how to manage unexpected encounters with friends during fieldwork; requests from participants about other participants, including those who consented to an interview based on a referral; and interviewee’s revealing details about their research involvement in public settings. By discussing how they defined, created, and defended boundaries around confidentiality during fieldwork, Lowe and Ridgway reflect upon when the “boundaries of collecting data became blurred” and the emotional labour this boundary maintenance demanded. A sort of game emerged, with some participants asking questions designed to test Lowe and Ridgway’s thresholds for upholding confidentiality, a challenge which thrust them into the ethical dilemma of having to “hide information while also building trust with people in the field”. In response, Lowe and Ridgway used secrets keeping as a method for securing their data both during fieldwork and beyond, and explored how this impacted their own lives, routines and the emotional labour it entailed. They conclude by offering suggestions for other criminologists who find themselves facing similar challenges. Next, we turn to the contribution of Mari Todd-Kvam and David Rodríguez Goyes, Dreams and Nightmares: Interviewing Research Participants who have experienced psychological trauma. In Chapter 10, the authors bring us through the processes and associated considerations when interviewing victims of crime, specifically the victim of the notorious drug lord Pablo Escobar. Many of Escobar’s victims, each exposed to tremendous violence and harm, while wanting to tell their story and feel recognized, also risked harmful consequences by participating in research. Telling their story of psychological trauma could trigger post-traumatic stress and other related negative effects. Furthermore, raising their voice about the topic could even put them at risk if noticed by Escobar accomplices. Thus, in this and similar cases, it is beyond essential that researchers are careful, well positioned, and informed when doing interviews. This also involves
Introduction 9 being conscious of and attending to the potential aversive effects and indeed emotional labour connected to doing research with participants who have experienced pychological trauma. The unique contribution of this chapter is that it fills a lacuna in criminological knowledge and scholarship – that tied to how to work with interviewees or participants more generally who have experienced psychological trauma. The authors start this chapter with their log – a snapshot of their fieldwork experiences – before explaining what constitutes potential psychological trauma and discussing in depth the ethics of doing research with persons who have experienced such psychological trauma. They offer hands-on strategies and considerations for approaching, continuing and concluding research with these populations. The authors place Goyes’ experiences interviewing dozens of victims of Pablo Escobar’s violence in Columbia – crimes that occurred in the 1980s and 1990s – to reflect on the ethics and practices of such work. As researchers who combine clinical experience and expertise within mental health and criminological fieldwork, the authors are well positioned to unpack how to balance data collection and research orientations with the challenge of “doing no harm” when conducting research. They speak to the need for researchers to harness but not misuse their power, employ a trauma-informed approach in taking care of both participants and researchers, and highlight the need to understand context when collecting, interpreting, creating, and disseminating knowledge. While some of our contributors write about the ethical issues raised while negotiating insider–outsider dynamics with the people and institutions they study, it is fair to say that these projects, while important and facing very real challenges, do not present the threat of immediate physical danger and harm to researchers. This is not the case for William N. Holden, whose Chapter 11 is titled Fear and Loathing in the Philippines: The Ethics of Researching President Rodrigo Duterte’s War on Drugs. A longstanding expert on human rights in the Philippines, and a frequent visitor, Holden’s recent trip was geared to investigate the impacts of President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. His chapter centres on how he managed avoiding placing both research participants – those involved with human rights activism – and himself in danger related to the project. Holden begins by providing important context regarding Duterte’s campaign against drugs and various claims regarding the problem, incorporating sources, such as the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, which counter Duterte’s hegemonic narratives. This framing is, of course, itself an ethical decision. Holden traces the rates of extrajudicial killings, both involving police and “vigilantes”, with, he writes, “victims’ bodies . . . found disposed in public sometimes bearing signs decrying their involvement in drugs”. It is within this context, where “unexplained killings” are listed under governmental annual reports as “accomplishments”, that Holden’s research takes place; a context where those who openly criticise Duterte are often warned and in some cases arrested for challenging state authority. Holden’s chapter proceeds to detail both the university ethics review process and conditions placed upon the research, as well as the ongoing implementation of research ethics in the field. Decisions involved the careful selection of locations to help ensure participant safety. “Interviews occurred in locations where the presence of
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a middle-aged non-Filipino would not attract attention”, Holden writes. Holden also avoided advertisement of the research as directly about the war on drugs, and explicates the extra precautions he took to ensure participant identities could not be traced after interviews. Participants expressed concerns for their safety and this also applied to Holden, who felt at times under surveillance himself. This chapter affirms not only the importance of the decisions made by the university research ethics board but also how it placed hindrances on the project and publications based on it. Ironically, perhaps, Holden’s decisions prioritising participant protection created obstacles in the peer-review process for publications. This chapter concludes with some “lessons learned” from the research experience and implications for ethical considerations going forward.
Conclusion To this end, in light of the contributions of all authors, we invite readers to peruse the chapters, witness the ethical experiences of our contributors, and interpret how they collectively unpack the nuances of doing research in the areas of criminology around the world. There are trials and tribulations in doing criminological research – far beyond what we learn in graduate school or even from our own experiences of doing research. Our intention is to extend the “ethics” dialogue to applied experiences, to practices that resonate, and to make such discussion commonplace. We recognise all criminological research is situationally unique but experiences are shared and, in this sense, there is space for all to learn from each other without concern, hesitancy, or fear of professional or personal repercussions.
Note 1 There are helpful guides available. See Bos (2020), Oliver (2010), and Stark and Hedgecoe (2010).
References Aas, K. F. (2012). ‘The earth is one but the world is not’: Criminological theory and its geopolitical divisions. Theoretical Criminology, 16(1), 5–20. Adorjan, M., & Ricciardelli, R. (Eds.). (2016). Engaging with ethics in international criminological research. Routledge. Babbie, E. (2004). Laud Humphreys and research ethics. International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, 24(3–5), 12–19. Bos, J. (2020). Research ethics for students in the social sciences. Springer Nature. Coetzee, W. S. (2020). Doing research on ‘sensitive topics’: Studying the Sweden-South Africa Arms Deal. Scientia Militaria: South African Journal of Military Studies, 48(2), 65–86. Elliott, C. (1999). Locating the energy for change: An introduction to appreciative inquiry: International Institute for Sustainable Development Winnipeg. Goffman, E. (1959). The presentation of self in everyday life. Doubleday. Griffiths, C. T., Murphy, J. J., & Snow, S. R. (2014). Economics of policing: Baseline for policing research in Canada. Public Safety Canada Ottawa.
Introduction 11 Hochschild, A. R. (2012). The managed heart: Commercialization of human feeling. University of California Press. Lancaster, K. (2017). Confidentiality, anonymity and power relations in elite interviewing: Conducting qualitative policy research in a politicised domain. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 20(1), 93–103. Liazos, A. (1972). The poverty of the sociology of deviance: Nuts, sluts, and preverts. Social Problems, 20(1), 103–120. Liebling, A., Elliott, C., & Arnold, H. (2001). Transforming the prison: Romantic optimism or appreciative realism? Criminal Justice, 1(2), 161–180. McArthur, D. (2009). Good ethics can sometimes mean better science: Research ethics and the Milgram experiments. Science and Engineering Ethics, 15(1), 69–79. Moxon, D., & Waters, J. (2016). Illegal drug use through the lifecourse: A study of ‘hidden’ older users. Routledge. Oliver, P. (2010). The student’s guide to research ethics (2nd ed.). McGraw-Hill, Open University Press. Ricciardelli, R. (2022). Ethnographic experiences of participating in a correctional officer training program: An exploration of values, ethics, and role conflict. Ethnography, 1–20. Smith, P., & Lorentzon, M. (2005). Is emotional labour ethical? Nursing Ethics, 12(6), 638–642. Stark, L., & Hedgecoe, A. (2010). A practical guide to research ethics. In The Sage handbook of qualitative methods in health research (pp. 589–607). SAGE. Tolich, M. (2014). What can Milgram and Zimbardo teach ethics committees and qualitative researchers about minimizing harm? Research Ethics, 10(2), 86–96. Waters, J. (2015). Snowball sampling: A cautionary tale involving a study of older drug users. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 18(4), 367–380. Xu, J., Laidler, K. J., & Lee, M. (2013). Doing criminological ethnography in China: Opportunities and challenges. Theoretical Criminology, 17(2), 271–279.
Research ethics, researchers’ responsibilities, and the ethical dilemmas in research with young people about their socio-political participation Paul Vinod Khiatani and Wing Hong Chui
Introduction Scholarship and formal procedures on research ethics attribute great weight to the treatment of (young) research participants during the research process, such as in describing measures to minimise risks and safeguard confidentiality (DicksonSwift et al., 2007; Morrow, 2008; Smeltzer, 2012). Institutional Review Boards and a number of charter organisations, for example, the Social Research Association (SRA), provide guidelines on code of ethics that predominantly focus on research ethics as it pertains to research participants. As Young and Barrett (2001, p. 130) put it, “ethical research is predicated on the expectation that the participants will suffer no harm as a result of the research process or its outcomes”. Therefore, if ethics is an immutable component of the research process (not just in the stage of fieldwork but throughout the entire process), then researchers have a tremendous weight of responsibility to ensure that research participants have inviolable rights (e.g. of voluntary participation in the research and right to withdraw at any time). The issue of researchers’ vulnerabilities, safety, and welfare, on the contrary, has yet to receive the same level of consideration and embrace. The peripheral treatment of researchers’ welfare as a matter of research ethics has not only been echoed by fieldwork researchers on sensitive topics (e.g. Dickson-Swift et al., 2007; Smeltzer, 2012) but is also evident in the absence of updated, comprehensive guidelines on managing ethical quandaries and challenges that pertain to researchers’ safety and welfare. The latest edition of SRA’s Research Ethics Guidance (2021), for example, distilled and refined guidelines for ethical practices in three key component areas of social research: (1) informed consent; (2) confidentiality and anonymity; and (3) avoiding harm. No surprise remains that the updated sections featured clear recommendations, considerations, and contextual backdrops for the treatment of research participants. However, there was little to be found in the way of recommendations for researcher(s) themselves. Only three sentences are written on the topic of “Potential harm to the research team” (SRA, 2021, p. 23), with the provided link on safety for social researchers referring the reader to a code for practice released 20 years prior (SRA, 2001). DOI: 10.4324/9781003241515-2
Research ethics, researchers’ responsibilities 13 Credence to this concern is propelled by the diverse, multifaceted difficulties, ranging from participant recruitment to data analysis and write-up, that are predominantly shared by qualitative researchers, particularly those who work with vulnerable populations and/or sensitive topics (e.g. Dickson-Swift et al., 2007; McDowell, 2001; Morrow, 2008). Yet, as various scholars have noted, the standard difficulties inherent in fieldwork-based research are compounded when the research is conducted in an unstable socio-political context (e.g. Ford et al., 2009; Hallett & Gruner-Domic, 2021; Smeltzer, 2012). In conflict (and even post-conflict) settings, there is a need to maintain ongoing reflexivity of ethical concerns throughout the research process as researchers have to contend with heightened dynamicity in situational circumstances and the unpredictable implications of these changes on the research process (e.g. with respect to the availability of infrastructure and human resources, and access to research participants) (Ford et al., 2009). As Ford and colleagues (2009, p. 6) stated in their review of the ethical challenges of conducting research in conflict-ridden settings, “conflict settings are by definition dynamic and subject to rapid deterioration”. This instability in conditions and circumstances that exacerbates difficulties in ethical research practice is our focus as emergent in both specific and general research processes. In recent decades, nearly every country around the world has experienced (or is currently experiencing) conflicts and crises, ranging from non-violent confrontational protests to violent social unrests and civil wars (Ford et al., 2009; Ni et al., 2020). Research on the relationship between event exposure and poor mental health outcomes has suggested that exposure to stressors as a result of living through contentious protests (among other human-produced and/or natural disasters), particularly those featuring violence and confrontations, potentially negatively impacts mental health and overall well-being (Ni et al., 2020). Therefore, researchers in a conflict-stricken locale, regardless of the nature or stage of their ongoing research, could potentially be directly or indirectly impacted by the environment.
Researching young people’s socio-political participation in the changing Hong Kong context between 2016 and 2021 In the current chapter, we seek to identify and unpack the ethical issues, dilemmas, and struggles encountered in the process of conducting empirical research from 2016 to 2021 on young people’s (non-)involvement in social and political activities in Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (hereafter, “Hong Kong”). During the 5-year timeframe, a series of critical events and circumstances arose that fundamentally and radically transformed the city, its administration, people, and the civic cultures of socio-political participation. Notably, for their penetrable and enduring influence on our research, there was the rising trend of localism and radical political actions from 2016 to 2019. In addition are the historically significant 2019–2020 Anti-Extradition Bill Movement (AEBM) (e.g. Lee et al., 2019), the implementation of the city’s first national security legislation (NSL) on June 30, 2020 (e.g. Lau, 2021; Wong & Kellogg, 2021), and the deadly Coronavirus-19
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(COVID-19) pandemic, which first entered the local scene in the fall of 2019 (e.g. Kwok et al., 2020). Macroscopically, during this timeframe, the semi-democratic city transformed from a place of vibrant political activism (2016–2019) to heightened intergroup conflict and ideological polarity (2019–2020) and finally to expansive top-down social control, in the name of safeguarding national security (i.e. against separatism, terrorism, and sedition) and combating COVID-19 (2020 and onwards). Notably, this period was also marked by greater involvement of the Beijing Government in the city’s socio-political affairs, a trend of deepening integration that unsettled those with resinicisation anxieties and localism sentiments (Adorjan et al., 2021). Microscopically, as reported by Adorjan and colleagues (2021), the period from 2016 to 2020 is marked by increasing identity polarisation (i.e. a greater increase in identification as a “Hongkonger” than “Chinese”), mounting distrust of the Hong Kong Police Force, and (up until the end of AEBM) greater involvement of young people and students in political activities (ranging from institutional politics to street political activism). After the AEBM dissolved under the pressure of COVID-19 social gathering bans and strategies of mass surveillance and arrests, including the introduction of the NSL later on in 2020, overt political activism noticeably decreased, civil society organisations have voluntarily disbanded, uprooted themselves and moved elsewhere, or been banned (e.g. for threatening the territory’s national security, in accordance with the NSL), and a historically unprecedented emigration of residents ensued.1 Put differently, the salient essence of changes between 2016 and 2021 can be described by Hong Kong’s transmutation from one “social movement city” (i.e. “social movement” in reference to the city’s increasing trend of activism, ritualistic processions, and social unrests) (Adorjan et al., 2021) to another “social movement city” (i.e. “social movement” in reference to the ongoing emigration of people, organisations, and resources). We now turn to discuss three projects related to the 5-year timeframe. First, the doctoral (PhD) research of the first author, a mixed-method research on the role of the moral selfhood in young people’s vector of protest activity (non-)involvement. From 2016 to 2018, his research involved collecting survey and in-depth interview data from university students in eight government-funded universities. The second author was the principal supervisor of his PhD research. Second, a two-wave mixed-method panel study that collected longitudinal survey and interview data from 2018 to 2021 on direct and indirect determinants of socio-political participation among university students. Conceived by the first author and fully supported by the second, the project received funding from the General Research Fund (GRF), University Grants Committee. Finally, the third project was a qualitative exploration of protester–police confrontations during the AEBM. The project involved in-depth interviews with young people who had encountered confrontations, for example, by witnessing it from afar or directly being involved in the conflicts, as they ensued between protesters and the police during the unrest. Again, the project was conceived by the first author and fully supported by the second. It successfully received funding from the Public Policy Research (PPR) Funding Scheme (Special Round) of the Policy Innovation and Co-ordination Office (PICO). The
Research ethics, researchers’ responsibilities 15 unifying research agenda for all three projects is an exploration of young people’s relationship with politics, their involvement in it, and the way(s) in which they act (or not) through various episodes and domains of social interactions, as consistent (or inconsistent) with their emerging selves. In total, the three projects culminated in approximately 1,600 survey respondents and slightly over 100 interviewees, all of whom are university educated (or completing their degrees during the course of data collection). Similar to Hallett and Gruner-Domic (2021, p. 72), we write our chapter to “describe the ways that we navigated, in a contingent and improvisatory way, these fraught issues”. We make transparent the difficulties and dilemmas arising from the research process of the two funded projects and the first author’s PhD research. While a large body of literature on challenges, vulnerabilities, and ethical quandaries experienced by scholars working on sensitive topics are in contexts of enduring conflict (e.g. Molyneux et al., 2021) or with “vulnerable populations” that have been historically marginalised, such as sexual minorities (e.g. Valentine et al., 2001) or at-risk children (e.g. Young & Barrett, 2001), our research context changed in dramatic ways over time. The present chapter echoes the woes of Smeltzer (2012), who also contended with dilemmas while conducting research in a changing semi-democratic regime, and finds significance in contributing to the following two areas that have not received sufficient attention: Conducting research within democratically restricted environments where research participants are politically oppressed but would not be categorized as acutely marginalized . . . [and] critically addressing the safety and welfare of not only research participants but also of researchers who conduct fieldwork in restricted milieus. (p. 257) Recognising and eloquently articulating all feelings of awkwardness, discomfort, and internal strife experienced throughout the 5 years is no simple task. Through revealing not only our felt vulnerabilities and challenges but also the “ethical mindfulness” in traversing “murky ethical waters” (Smeltzer, 2012, p. 267), it is hoped that scholars working on sensitive topics in/on politically unstable regions may be inspired to chart similar, alternative, or new routes to navigating the ethical tensions they face. Specifically, we discuss four aspects of the research process in this chapter: (1) consent and recruiting practices; (2) surveying; (3) interviewing; and (4) protecting the identity and data of participants.
Consent and recruiting practices Discussions on ethical practices of consent-seeking and the recruitment of research participants have occupied a great deal in the corpus on research ethics. Most research, regardless of design and setting, require consent-seeking as a fundamental obligation to the human participants. Explaining its essence and nuances, Morrow (2008, p. 54) wrote, “consent in research involves much more than agreeing
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to participate in research . . . It involves taking time to decide, being able to ask questions about the research, and then being able to say yes or no”. Consents are typically solicited in verbal and/or written forms and involve the passive provision of information on, as well as two-way discussions over, aims/objectives of the research, details of the researchers and the funding organisation(s), anticipated benefits and harms, ethical measures adopted (e.g. to ensure confidentiality and anonymity), and participants’ rights. In the process, as DuBois and colleagues (2012) advised, researchers should “show respect for persons by ensuring that they enter into research voluntarily and with adequate information and by protecting those with diminished autonomy” (p. 2221). Rather than a singular event, consent is an ongoing consideration (Morrow, 2008; SRA, 2021). Finding other ways in when the gate(-keeper) shuts When involving younger people as research participants, consent-seeking might necessarily involve negotiating access with “gatekeepers”, such as teachers or parents, whose authority and approval is a prerequisite condition to being able to reach the potential research participants (McDowell, 2001; Morrow, 2008). While not always, ethical concerns could arise in arrangements that involve disclosing particularities about the research to the gatekeeper first before reaching the intended recruits. For instance, as Valentine and colleagues (2001) explained, approaching the parents of a “closeted” person2 (aged under 18) to acquire consent for participating in research about young people’s sexuality removes the cloak of anonymity that the person had built up (i.e. thereby potentially harming the interests of the young person). Although our research focus differs from that of Valentine and colleagues (2001) (i.e. rather than “closeted” sexuality, we are concerned with young people’s activism in volatile, politically unstable contexts), we shared the common experience of encountering ethical issues when dealing with gatekeepers whose cooperation was crucial to reaching the intended recruits. The survey components of the first author’s PhD research and the GRF involved negotiating access to potential research participants through contacting faculty members of Hong Kong’s eight government-funded universities. Procedurally, the researcher(s) first emailed faculty members about the research project. The email provided a brief self-introduction and disclosing its aim, objectives, duration for completion, survey respondents’ rights, anticipated risks and benefits, and method of distribution. If the faculty member had a class where the surveys could be distributed and agreed to the request, then the researcher(s) would go on an agreedupon date and time to deliver a briefing to the class and then distribute the surveys. The first challenge faced occurred in the fall semester of 2017, when arguments and minor conflicts and scuffles occurred on a few campuses over localism propaganda, such as pro-independence slogans, that student groups had posted/ displayed/exhibited. University lecturers who had previously agreed to assist the first author with survey distribution advised against the planned visits and rejected any and all attempts to find alternatives to in-person survey distributions in their classrooms. Similar challenges emerged during the first wave of the GRF survey
Research ethics, researchers’ responsibilities 17 data collection, particularly when tensions over socio-political issues bubbled above the surface on-campus and in the larger society in 2019. Some gatekeepers who previously agreed to cooperate changed their minds and disapproved administration of the surveys. Others expressed concern over administering the surveys but still stuck to their word of cooperation. Fortunately, we had the experiences of the first author’s difficulties during his PhD to reflect on ethically sound solutions to recruitment (i.e. instead of stressing gatekeepers to cooperate). Unlike the first author’s PhD research, the first and second authors adopted a three-pronged approach to survey data collection for the GRF project, with reliance on gatekeepers only necessary for one of the recruitment methods. The other two methods included posting physical information sheets about the survey and how to complete it on general notice boards in all eight universities, and recruiting student helpers (with compensation) to distribute surveys to students living in the universities’ residential halls (see Chui et al., 2022 for more details on the three survey data collection strategies we adopted for the first wave of the GRF project). Based on the survey turnout, we feel that the two solutions circumvented the liability concerns that the lecturers felt might have happened if they cooperated with us in distributing surveys during politically fraught times (e.g. receiving student complaints and/or university disciplinary actions regarding approving the distribution of surveys that asked “sensitive” questions in their classes). Fortunately, we had the experiences of the first author’s difficulties during his PhD to reflect on ethically sound solutions to recruitment (i.e. instead of stressing gatekeepers to cooperate). The transparency of consent-seeking and recruitment under fearful circumstances Based on reflections of recruiting participants for GRF and PPR (i.e. between 2019 and 2021), the difficulty of recruitment varied in proportion to the perceived risks of self-reporting personal information that might be incriminating or self-damaging in the long run. For instance, prior to the AEBM, we received no objections from the research participants concerning questions about intentions to engage in radical protest actions, past behaviours of illegal activism,3 and past confrontational engagements in protests against law enforcement. In fact, during the first author’s PhD data collection, they welcomed these lines of questions and the conversations that ensued about its relation to their moral values and identity. However, during the AEBM, and particularly after the implementation of NSL, we noticed that more participants expressed some degree of concern over addressing such questions, and thus chose to not participate in our projects. This situation presented a significant dilemma for us. In written consent forms and verbal briefings (e.g. before administering surveys or conducting interviews), how do we explain the anticipated risks without feeding into their fears and scaring them away? The challenge was further amplified in the first few months after the NSL came into effect, as its reach, declarations (i.e. of what acts of protest are legal), and effects by application had yet to be fully realised. The ambiguity
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made it impossible to provide potential participants with an accurate picture of what the anticipated harms and risks of participating in our research would be. In addition, for the PPR research specifically, our consent forms and verbal briefings made it clear that the project was funded by PICO.4 Consequently, no less than 50 interview requests, including from close and extended network contacts (i.e. as our PPR project recruited participants through an opportunistic snowball sampling procedure), were rejected because of concerns over the NSL and a general skepticism over the “true” intentions of government-funded empirical research on young people and AEBM. The approach we took to solving this quandary was to familiarise ourselves with current socio-political affairs and the NSL as much as possible, discuss at length the ethical measures (and any additional protections) we were taking to safeguard participants’ privacy, and allow them room and time to raise any concerns that they may have in order to address them accordingly. Reflecting the best practices outlined by SRA (2021), we provided written information and verbal explanations in-person or over distance communication platforms, and ensured them that participation was entirely voluntary (i.e. there was no obligation to participate). For the PPR project specifically, our decision to recruit participants through the researchers’ network of friends and acquaintances ensured we could complete data collection on a sensitive topic like encountering and/or involvement in protester– police confrontations because we had already established rapport and trust.
Surveying Panel surveying in extraordinary times: what to do with the “unresponsive”? In comparison to breadth and depth of coverage by qualitative researchers, ethical quandaries emerging from the pursuit of surveying are rarely discussed. In our two-wave GRF project, the changing environment presented an ongoing dilemma regarding follow-up recruitment (i.e. second wave of data collection) of participants for survey taking. For longitudinal studies, scholars often suggest that compensating (or the likelihood of receiving large payments, say from a lottery draw) encourages follow-up (DuBois et al., 2012; SRA, 2021). For instance, SRA (2021, p. 8) suggested that “incentives may improve the accuracy of a study’s findings by encouraging respondent groups that are typically under-represented to take part, such as young people”. DuBois and colleagues (2012, p. 2223) similarly stated that “higher payments and cash payments were correlated with higher study satisfaction and follow-up rates with fewer tracking efforts”. In the larger sense, vouchers, cash payments, and other forms of incentives serve to reciprocate a contribution to our benefactors (e.g. giving back with gratitude to the participants for their contributions to the research project). As we discovered, however, the effect of compensations on survey taking appeared to vastly differ in contexts of ongoing political instabilities than in regular settings. Impacts of the AEBM on the socio-political climate (i.e. political polarisation) and
Research ethics, researchers’ responsibilities 19 responses to the protests from the Hong Kong Government (e.g. imposing lockdowns) and universities (e.g. shifting from on-site to distance learning) directly influenced our second-wave GRF survey data collection. To aid with inviting the first-wave survey respondents to complete the second-wave surveys, we left spaces on the last page of the first-wave surveys for filling-in contact details (i.e. email address and contact phone number). The intention to only use the information for following up for the second-wave survey was made explicit just before the queries. When it came time to following-up, we sent the first round of invitations via email and then by available instant communication applications (e.g. WhatsApp). During this time, which coincided with the aforementioned period of heightened tensions and measures that discouraged on-campus attendance, many participants did not respond, some could not be contacted (notably among students who came from Mainland China), and some respectfully declined to participate. The dilemma experienced was to what extent should we push our follow-up recruitment call, in an attempt to solicit a response from those who we did not hear back from, before it becomes counter-productive. How frequently should we attempt to contact them before moving on? How much time should we put in between contacts? This specific dilemma in fact relates to a general struggle shared by various researchers: Having to decide between obtaining “good data” and upholding the welfare of the participants (e.g. Smeltzer, 2012). We did not want to be intrusive by adopting methods of contact that participants did not disclose to us on the survey, nor did we want to overwhelm them with messages in their silence. Yet we were in a fortuitous situation of having funding to conduct two waves of survey data collection, with the AEBM starting just after the first wave of data collection concluded and still persisting while the second wave was to begin. The timing of the waves of data collection and the AEBM matched to yield rare data that could be used for ground-breaking theory and hypothesis testing. Thus, if we were insistent on taking full advantage of this “rare opportunity”, we should be making all attempts to receive a response from the respondents. However, doing so may violate the interest and motivation of participants. As such, the approach we took was to stick with the options that we had received permission to pursue (i.e. nothing beyond email and contact via text messaging), and sending messages (at most) twice for each available contact information with at least a week in between attempts. Although we were in a fortuitous situation to mine “good data”, we judged that continued non-response to our invitations should (if not due to the reason of missing our messages) infer felt reservations and non-compliance. As young people were involved in a variety of protest activities during AEBM, they were inevitably also the targets of counter-mobilisation efforts and public dissatisfaction (i.e. among those in the general public who disagreed with the movement). Bombarding unresponsive respondents with messages would be a demonstration of gross insensitivity to the anxiety and pressures that they may be facing, for example, in their efforts to keep a “low profile” or be silent. These assumptions, informed by our observations of the environment and ethical reflexivity, prioritised the best interest of the participant to protect their well-being under the tumultuous socio-political climate.
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Given the situation, and the measured approach we took to protect the welfare of the young people involved in our project, a low response rate of 22.7% was yielded in the second-wave GRF data collection. In politically fraught locales, reflexivity is of high importance as “decisions must be made that balance safety concerns with obtaining ‘good data’” (Smeltzer, 2012, p. 265). For us, the welfare and rights of the research subject outweighed the ambition of collecting “good data”.
Interviewing Being flexible where it counts: taking participants’ perceived risks seriously Suggestions on ethical research practices in the context of conducting interviews are plentiful, revolving largely around doing no harm to the research participant and ensuring that the participant is fully aware of their rights as an interviewee (DuBois et al., 2012; Morrow, 2008; SRA, 2021). In the context of interviewing young people on a sensitive topic, for example, during the pre-interview briefing, interviewers could explain that the interview provides a space for exploring views and opinions on certain themes/topics, and that there are no right or wrong answers (Morrow, 2008). In the course of the interview, researchers should be respectful of participants’ views and opinions, and be alert for any non-verbal or verbal cues of discomfort, uneasiness, or distress the participant may be experiencing (Morrow, 2008; SRA, 2021). In our experience, although we would send (via email) interested research participants’ details about the in-depth interview and what to expect, a comprehensive pre-interview briefing always directly preceded the in-depth interviews. During the pre-interview briefing, thorough explanations of particularities of the project and the semi-structured interview script, how the results would be used, who the funders are, anticipated benefits and risks, and the measures taken to safeguard their privacy were provided. While most pre-interview briefings were straightforward, others stretched out over half an hour as some participants took our encouragement to express any concerns or ask questions they might feel necessary to raise. Among the few that took the opportunity, they generally voiced concern over being “found”, for example, through data spillage or being identified in publications, and thus sought to learn more details about the approach taken to safeguard their data and identity. All concerns and/or questions would be worked on together (i.e. between the interviewer and the participant) before the interview begins. Not all of the in-depth interviews were completed in one sitting nor in-person. Rather, some interviews extended over two meetings, and some moved online with the help of video-conferencing platforms. Fortunately, perhaps because the interviewer always kept an open channel of communication with the participants (e.g. in case they needed to reschedule or wanted to expand a bit in some of their self-disclosures post-interview), the rapport and flow of the interview never suffered as a result of extensions and/or switching from in-person to online.
Research ethics, researchers’ responsibilities 21 Post-interview, some participants even sent pictures (e.g. propaganda poster) and/ or notes (e.g. dates of visiting protest sites) electronically to the interviewer for the purposes of illustrating or expounding on an unfinished point made during the interview. We encouraged this flexibility of communication and logistics, as university students do not often have two to three hours of uninterrupted time to spare on an interview. This way, too, participants were not put under pressure by the interviewer to disclose materials that they preferred not to share via online transfer and/or to use communication platforms that they did not feel comfortable with (e.g. due to fears of being monitored). The aforementioned practices, anchored on the principle of flexibility and enriching self-disclosure, were maintained for all three projects. With the heightened polarisation and restrictions on travel and on-campus attendance in Hong Kong (i.e. due to the AEBM and COVID-19, as well as authorities’ responses to both events), however, we were challenged to conduct in-depth interviews with even greater fluidity. Notably, as anxieties and insecurities over government and university surveillance increased, participants expressed a variety of worries that concerned staying away from prying eyes. For instance, one participant of the second-wave GRF interviews requested that we hold the interview over a video-conferencing platform, as the distance learning arrangement afforded the participant an opportunity to go back home (overseas) and continue to study. When we started the interview, it was a surprise to learn that the participant would not turn on the camera function and only be able to converse through text messages on the in-text platform function. The participant’s parents were both at home too, and they were unaware of the participant’s involvement in the protest activities in Hong Kong. The parents strongly forbade the family’s involvement in politics, and the participant was afraid that giving verbal responses to the interview questions might catch their attention. From the perspective of an interviewer, this arrangement is more exhausting, as it demands additional time for note-taking and requires greater discernment of which responses need more probing or which issues are sensitive to the participant (as both verbal cues and non-verbal gestures are absent). In another example, an interview at night with one participant of the PPR project could not be conducted on-campus, as originally planned, because of emergency lockdown measures that the university felt were necessary to execute immediately. Locked out of the campus, we had the options of conducting the interview in a café, park, or food court. However, the participant felt that none of them afforded sufficient privacy and security. Thus, on recommendation of the participant, we had the in-person interview in the participant’s car. From the perspective of an interviewer, conducting an interview alone in an unfamiliar, private environment with an unfamiliar person in the evening introduces a high potential for risks of harm. According to the SRA’s A Code of Practice for the Safety of Social Researchers (2001), such arrangement may not have even been advisable. According to the code of practice, having a close social interaction without familiarity or control over the environment (i.e. a private car belonging to the participant), potentially increases “risk of physical threat or abuse . . . psychological
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trauma . . . accusations of improper behaviour . . . [and] psychological or physical harm to others” (SRA, 2001, p. 1). In our situation, the interviewer and interviewee were close in age (late twenties) and of the same gender (male). If the difference in characteristics were greater (e.g. between a female interviewer in her twenties and a male interviewee in his forties), however, it is entirely possible that the same decision may not have been reached because of the new ethical implications (e.g. introduction of male power dynamics and risk of sexual harassment) resulting from cross-gender interviewing in an unfamiliar, private environment. In the two described examples, maintaining flexibility was a matter of not only managing logistical concerns but also mitigating potential harms perceived by the participants. According to ethics guidelines of the SRA (2021), not all risks can be anticipated. So, a vital part of mitigating harm is to be aware of this throughout the research process. It may not be possible to avoid harm entirely, but it is possible to minimize it by being aware of the potential, by careful planning, and by responding promptly in the event of harm. (p. 22) In the midst of heightened uncertainty and various “hidden” risks and dangers, it is not always possible for a researcher alone to account for all possible harms. The scope of risks perceived by the participants covered a much larger territory than what we were aware of ourselves. As such, the importance of listening to the participants’ concerns was a fundamental element of our strategic planning, and being flexible ensured that the participants’ concerns would be taken seriously. In the first case, we carried through the in-depth interview, with the participant only responding via text messages, from start to end. This solution was similar to that used by Valentine and colleagues (2001), who used emails to conduct interviews with sexual minorities living under their parents’ roof to appease their concerns over parental surveillance. In the second case, although an unfamiliar environment to the interviewer, nearly two hours of interviewing was successfully conducted in the participant’s car. This solution corresponds with SRA’s guideline on ensuring that individuals’ responses are not overheard or overseen by anyone, and that unintentional disclosures, if any, would not bring considerable risks to the researcher, research participant, and research project as a whole (2021, see p. 16). In both cases, among others, our main concern was to ensure that identified risks in relation to the interview could be mitigated.
Protecting the identity and data of participants Safeguarding participants’ data at what cost? Dilemmas over competing responsibilities to the participants and the research team In the process of conducting research, particularly with vulnerable groups in unstable regions, the researchers’ responsibility to protecting the identity and data of their participants is deeply intertwined with the obligation to do no harm. The
Research ethics, researchers’ responsibilities 23 task of safeguarding data is ongoing and necessarily involves updates and/or revisions in protocol, based on changing situational circumstances, and respondents’ demands (e.g. right to deletion and withdrawal from the research) (SRA, 2021). Balancing between competing responsibilities of protecting participants’ confidentiality and privacy, researchers’ welfare, and the researchers’ larger obligations (e.g. to the funder and/or to external decision-makers, and scholars who could benefit from reading the findings) is a tricky scenario for researchers – who simultaneously have to be gatekeepers, advocates, and contributing members of society – that is not discussed as much as necessary in current literature. In all three projects, as SRA (2021, p. 16) suggested, we tried “to describe, in the written documents you provide as part of informed consent procedures, how you will maintain confidentiality and anonymity, and how you will use, store and share data”. Prior to the interviews, the interviewer would brief the participant about the particularities of the project and related details of mutual concern. The measures adopted to protect participants’ personal information and privacy (e.g. anonymity through using pseudonyms) were often explained in relation to the anticipated risks (e.g. that data leaks could increase the risk of participants’ private self-disclosures to be publicised). However, proportional to our changing assessments of anticipated risks in the progressively unstable social environment, it was becoming increasingly poignant that standard measures for protecting the confidentiality and anonymity of the participants would be insufficient. First, as mentioned previously, various research participants had their own assessments of the risks and harms that existed. In the process of conducting the second-wave GRF surveys in late 2019, for example, we received a fair deal of queries concerning our political stance and (in a few cases) requests to prove that we were employed by the university (i.e. and not a hidden agent of the state posing as a university staff member). Also, while conducting the PPR project and secondwave GRF interviews, some participants who agreed to having the interview oncampus requested a venue and routes to that space that escaped university camera surveillance. Among those who accepted interviews through video-conferencing platforms, moreover, requests were made to not use platforms that were owned by Chinese enterprises (i.e. out of fear of eavesdropping). Second, particularly for the PPR project, a number of research participants expressed concern over the trustworthiness and objectivity of the second author (who at the time was Dean of Students at a government-funded university in Hong Kong). In his senior administrative role, the second author had to execute tasks that directly related to on-campus student affairs, including managing student activities and meeting with students who were arrested or had court dates. Although the second author has a distinguished record of working with and protecting vulnerable groups, and has never aligned himself with a political stance, concerned research participants felt that persons deeply embedded in power structures and high up in bureaucratic institutions (such as the university) that are actively not “for” the movement are prone to capitulating under the pressure of their bosses. That is, they were afraid that their data would be handed over when pressure “from above” was applied to an individual who had a lot to lose.
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Uniting the two clusters of concerns was the worry over data leaks and spillovers. For the GRF project, we were able to address these concerns by (1) disclosing identification documents that verify our employment with the university; (2) planning routes ahead of time to guide participants to a private venue with minimal surveillance detection and with no prying eyes or likelihood of third-party eavesdropping; and (3) adopting platforms with objectively high-security features (e.g. end-to-end encryption) and, equally important, an endorsement by the participants as being trusted (e.g. not owned by a Chinese corporation). With the implementation of the NSL, we also adopted the following measures to appease participants’ concerns: (4) restricting access to data only to the interviewer (i.e. not sharing the original data with other research team members, including the second author); (5) avoiding duplications (e.g. keeping only one audio file and collection of notes for each interview to reduce the chance of data leak); (6) limiting methods of transmission of participants’ data to USB transfers and hardcopy prints (i.e. we did not upload files with participants’ data on a “cloud” server or email files to one another); and (7) removing any information that could directly (e.g. the name, date, time, and location of the protests visited) or indirectly (e.g. names of followed social media groups or schools attended) be used to identify the participant. A few words need to be said about the fourth measure we adopted, as it sparked (momentary) tensions between the first and second authors that reflected the costs of prioritising responsibilities to research participants and their data over a researcher’s larger responsibility to their research team. The SRA (2021) and other scholars (e.g. Dickson-Swift et al., 2007; Molyneux et al., 2021) have discussed the importance of maintaining a (in)formal support system and collegiality among members embarking on the same research project, particularly when ethical quandaries and tensions are anticipated (e.g. by virtue of the unstable context, sensitive topic, and/or vulnerable sample group). Yet, when potential research participants convey worries about one’s research team member(s), how should one manage between addressing participants’ worries and maintaining collegiality? The first author (who served as a key interviewer in the GRF and PPR) participated in self-disclosures with potential participants about the vulnerabilities of being a gatekeeper (among other roles) of sensitive data on activism, radicalism, violent acts, illegal protest actions, and young people. He disclosed his guiding values and ethics in safeguarding their data, and opened up about the “known” and “unknown” risks to the participants and researchers. The first author then explained the role of the second author, as someone who espouses similar values and ethical practices and meaningfully supports the project’s ambitions and progression. Upon realising that the rejections or potential participants’ hesitations were not about the second author himself, but an amalgamation of anxieties over (1) his senior administrative position in the university, (2) the impression that the university’s senior management is not allied with the movement, and (3) the fact that the PPR project received funding from PICO, the first author made the decision to implement an arrangement that the deanonymised interview data be solely kept and only seen by the interviewer.
Research ethics, researchers’ responsibilities 25 This arrangement effectively addressed the concerns of some, but not all,5 who were on the fence. After one interview for the PPR project, the participant shared with admiration, “it is funny, your implemented practices to protect data are even more strict than the law firm that I am working for”. This arrangement did come at the cost of arguments between the first and second authors, but the second author soon came to fully support the decision as it was an ethically sound adaptation to the situational circumstances and – although strict – in line with a researcher’s ethical responsibility to maintain confidentiality at all stages of the research (SRA, 2021).
Discussion and conclusion In recent decades, conversations on research ethics and ethical research practices have grown to include researchers’ vulnerabilities and the ethical quandaries faced by the researcher(s) in the research process. In contexts of political conflict or crisis particularly, ethical dilemmas and security concerns abound as the volatility of the political situation can be difficult to predict (Smeltzer, 2012). Our aim in the present chapter was to contribute to a nuanced understanding of the multilayered vulnerabilities and struggles experienced in conducting research on young people’s activism in volatile, politically unstable contexts. We discussed some of the ethical issues, dilemmas, and struggles that we encountered in the process of conducting three empirical projects from 2016 to 2021 on young people’s (non-) involvement in social and political activities in Hong Kong. The 5-year timeframe featured drastic changes in the city that had a direct and indirect impact on the progress of the research projects. Between 2016 and 2019, political expression, protest activism, and radical protest repertoires increased. From 2020 onwards, however, the opposite trends were observed, and there was increasing suspicion and anxiety associated with the risks of apprehension. Particularly with the introduction of the NSL, researching the lifeworld of young people became increasingly challenging. The increased difficulties bestowed researchers with unique and complex ethical and moral problems to contend with, including (1) how to manage the uneasiness and hesitation experienced among gatekeepers and research participants for collecting “good data”; (2) how to talk about and appease concerns over unpredictable harms; (3) the degree of flexibility needed to navigate around risks perceptible only to the participants; and (4) how to manage competing responsibilities at the nexus of obligations to the participants’ safety and welfare, on the one hand, and research team collaborators, on the other hand. It is difficult for researchers to anticipate what ethical dilemmas will arise during the course of research. This is made more challenging in contexts of conflict, violence, and pandemic. As situational circumstances can vary widely and spontaneously, it is important to see ethics as an ongoing task of work. A situational ethical mindfulness is necessary to manage (towards minimising) anxieties, insecurities, and risks that might impact the quality of research and the safety and wellbeing of the researcher(s) and research participant(s). This practice is important
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when dealing with young people. Young people are not a homogenised social group. Thus, particularly in a context where young people feel threatened and heightened anxiety over being targeted, methodological and ethical codes need to be applied with consideration and flexibility, accounting for situations, dispositions, and related factors. In addition, particularly when conducting research as a team, it is imperative to establish mutual trust and discuss competing viewpoints, even if it results in arguments. The first and second authors were able to compromise and reach an understanding precisely because differences (e.g. regarding the limits and “overprotection” of safeguarding participants’ data) were honestly and transparently discussed. As mentioned by Adorjan and colleagues (2021, p. 653), a collective practice among collaborators that espouses “a reflexive, collaborative ethic and ‘ethical imagination’” is ideal to mitigate against the (moral) muddle that potentially arises when researching a setting or context that is dynamically changing and politically sensitive. Further research that reflects on and examines researchers’ vulnerabilities and ethical quandaries in the context of research collaboration is needed. Explorations on how researchers manage competing responsibilities to participants, on the one hand, and research team collaborators, on the other hand, are particularly encouraged, given the limited research in this area. “Seeing the elephant in the room”: signposts for ethical research on young people’s socio-political participation in a changing Hong Kong Since the implementation of the NSL, Hong Kong has been experiencing a widespread chilling effect on the previously heated lifestyle, practice, and legacy of protest. Traditional institutions, civil society organisations, working professionals, and the general public are faced with organic pressures to adapt to the “new normal”, deviating away from work, inquiries, and spheres of influence that may be construed as stepping out of line (i.e. perceived as threatening the city’s national security). This leads us to wonder if greater cautions and considerations are needed in the practice of interviewing and surveying young people’s political behaviours, ideologies, and aspirations in post-conflict Hong Kong. These areas of interest have commonly been studied with self-report measures. Yet, in an era where self-censorship and fear of self-incrimination may be considered prudent, one must wonder if young research participants would be comfortable enough to divulge the truth, regardless of the best intentions of the researcher(s). Would it be ethical to put them in that position? Apart from the exceptional circumstance where the participant(s) and the researcher(s) have an enduring, trusting bond with one another, scholars must engage in deep introspection prior to employing self-report measures as the silence, apathy, and retreat from politics are noticeably prevalent among young people in post-conflict Hong Kong. At best, survey data collection will yield smaller-than-expected sample sizes or, in the case of longitudinal designs, considerable attrition between data collection points. Similarly, recruitment for interviews may require far more investment of time, energy, and resources by researchers than in previous years. At worst, interview
Research ethics, researchers’ responsibilities 27 and survey data collection will yield observation data that are contaminated with self-censorship, half-truths, and/or “repackaged” versions of the truth. In both cases, the social significance and impact of the findings may be called into question. If the quality of the data itself is questionable, especially in the “worst”-case scenario, then the following existential questions must be asked to oneself: Why am I doing this research, and is it worth it? In post-conflict Hong Kong, it is our reflection that the more “sensitive” the questions are (e.g. on violence, illegal protest actions, and radicalism), the harder it would get to ensure the safety of the participants, the researchers, and the ethical integrity and quality of the research. If scholars wish to embark on such lines of scientific inquiry, we would suggest to look to the diaspora as a potential source of research participants. Alternatively, if data collection in the city is absolutely necessary, scholars may consider using research designs that do not involve putting research participants (and gatekeepers) in a precarious position. For example, one could conduct a social sentiment analysis on hotly debated issues during the AEBM with data from social media platforms (e.g. see Lee, 2020). We echo the suggestion by Hallett and Gruner-Domic (2021, p. 73) that rather than simply following standardized protocols for consent and data analysis, researchers should be prepared to think both critically and concretely about our ethical obligations not only in the collection of data, but also in the work of analysis and representation. Even after receiving ethical approval, researchers need to revisit their ethical considerations, commitments, and practices in accordance with changing situational circumstances. After the implementation of the NSL in 2020, for instance, several decisions were made to modify and implement new practices to safeguard the data and welfare of the participants, whose concerns and anxieties evolved in response to the socio-political upheaval. These events happened well after receiving ethics approval for the project (in 2019). An ethos that lacks a growth mindset and commitment to reflexivity and adaptation risks compromising the quality of their study results, its ability to make meaningful contributions, and the welfare of parties involved (Ford et al., 2009). In line with this cautionary note, we encourage researchers to consider introducing personal diaries (i.e. to document ethical dilemmas and make informed risk assessments) and formal or informal networks that provide mutual support and guidance (e.g. through organising role plays of ethical challenges in the field) into their everyday research practices (DicksonSwift et al., 2007; Molyneux et al., 2021).
Acknowledgements Parts of the work described in this chapter were supported by funding obtained from the Research Grant Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (Project No. 9042735) and the Policy Innovation and Co-ordination Office (Project No. 9211213). The authors are grateful to all of the research assistants who
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helped with the GRF and PPR projects. Also, the authors sincerely appreciate all of the research participants for their trust and the invaluable contributions made to our projects. The authors are solely responsible for the content of this chapter and any errors or omissions that remain. There is no conflict of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this chapter to declare.
Notes 1 As reported in South China Morning Post (SCMP), in comparison to the period between mid-2019 and mid-2020, the number of people migrating out of Hong Kong increased by four times between mid-2020 and mid-2021, from 20,900 to 89,200 people, respectively (Chan, 12 August 2021). In a recent SCMP article, the amount of university students discontinuing their studies increased by 24 percent, from 1,779 (in 2019–2020) to 2,212 students (in 2020–2021) (Yiu, 21 January 2022). In addition, results from a telephone survey (conducted from 16 to 25 September 2021) of 716 persons aged 18 or above, revealed that, if provided a chance, 42.0 percent of the survey respondents would emigrate to an overseas country (Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies, 2021). Although it is not the sole reason for the outflow, the top four “push” and “pull” reasons for leaving all related – in one way or another – to post-conflict perceptions and evaluations of the city’s political present and future. 2 A “closeted” person is a colloquial expression for an individual whose sexual orientation and identity have not been publicly disclosed, particularly out of fear of being stigmatised, receiving prejudiced treatment, and/or being victimised. 3 Residents in Hong Kong have the freedom of assembly, procession, and demonstration. In accordance with the Public Order Ordinance (Cap. 245), however, public meetings of more than 50 persons or public processions of more than 30 persons cannot be observed without first giving notice in writing to the Commissioner of Police (normally at least 7 days prior to the intended group activity). A meeting or procession may proceed if a notice of no objection is issued. An assembly/protest is commonly understood to be illegal if it is held without prior permission received (i.e. the intended gathering was not granted the notice of no objection by the Commissioner or an application was not put forward in the first instance), if it deviates significantly from details provided in the application (e.g. not following the stated travel route or time of dispersal), or if conditions imposed by the Commissioner of Police are not met. More information about the Public Order Ordinance (Cap. 245) can be found here: www.elegislation.gov.hk/hk/ cap245. 4 PICO, formerly known as the Central Policy Unit, is an advisory unit of the Hong Kong Government that is responsible for coordinating and providing support to the Chief Executive on matters of policy research, innovation projects, and strategic development. It also provides opportunities for public participation in policy-making (Policy Innovation and Co-ordination Office, 2022). 5 Just before their scheduled appointment, one research participant, who the first author, has known for more years than most of the participants, suddenly declined to be audiorecorded and interviewed for the PPR project. The reason for this was the heightened fears that the Hong Kong Government would not stand idly by in punishing activists and politically inclined young people, and instead strategically utilise various mechanisms to capture them through bending researchers into submission to share personal data. As the PPR project received funding from the government, successful state intervention, regardless of the first and second authors’ best efforts to resist, felt inevitable to them. They then further urged the first author as a friend to remain vigilant and consider discontinuing the project.
Research ethics, researchers’ responsibilities 29
References Adorjan, M., Khiatani, P. V., & Chui, W. H. (2021). The rise and ongoing legacy of localism as collective identity in Hong Kong: Resinicisation anxieties and punishment of political dissent in the post-colonial era. Punishment & Society, 23(5), 650–674. Chan, H. H. (2021, August 12). Hong Kong experiences ‘alarming’ population drop, but government says not all 90,000 leaving city because of national security law. South China Morning Post. www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/society/article/3144845/ hong-kongs-experiences-alarming-population-drop-government Chui, W. H., Khiatani, P. V., & Ip, P. L. (2022). Emerging adults’ intentions to participate in radical protest actions: The role of the parents in the midst of extra-familial influences and the offspring’s political characteristics. British Journal of Social Work. 52(7), 4057–4076. Dickson-Swift, V., James, E. L., Kippen, S., & Liamputtong, P. (2007). Doing sensitive research: What challenges do qualitative researchers face? Qualitative Research, 7(3), 327–353. DuBois, J. M., Beskow, L., Campbell, J., Dugosh, K., Festinger, D., Hartz, S., James, R., & Lidz, C. (2012). Restoring balance: A consensus statement on the protection of vulnerable research participants. American Journal of Public Health, 102(12), 2220–2225. Ford, N., Mills, E. J., Zachariah, R., & Upshur, R. (2009). Ethics of conducting research in conflicting settings. Conflict and Health, 3(7), 1–9. Hallett, M. C., & Gruner-Domic, S. (2021). Consent, mediation, and complicity: The complex ethics of informed consent and scholarly representation in violent contexts. Geopolitics, 26(1), 70–93. Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies. (2021). Survey findings on views about emigration from Hong Kong. Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies, The Chinese University of Hong Kong. www.hkiaps.cuhk.edu.hk/wd/ni/20211020-110804_1.pdf Kwok, K. O., Li, K. K., Chan, H. H. H., Yi, Y. Y., Tang, A., Wei, W. I., & Wong, S. Y. S. (2020). Community responses during early phase of COVID-19 epidemic, Hong Kong. Emerging Infectious Diseases, 26(7), 1575–1579. Lau, S. K. (2021). The National Security Law: Political and social effects on the governance of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. Public Administration and Policy: An Asia-Pacific Journal, 24(3), 234–240. Lee, F. L. F. (2020). Solidarity in the anti-extradition bill movement in Hong Kong. Critical Asian Studies, 52(1), 18–32. Lee, F. L. F., Yuen, S., Tang, G., & Cheng, E. W. (2019). Hong Kong’s summer of uprising: From anti-extradition to anti-authoritarian protests. The China Review, 19(4), 1–32. McDowell, L. (2001). ‘It’s that Linda again’: Ethical, practical and political issues involved in longitudinal research with young men. Ethics, Place & Environment, 4(2), 87–100. Molyneux, S., Sukhtankar, P., Thitiri, J., Njeru, R., Muraya, K., Sanga, G., Walson, J. L., Berkley, J., Kelley, M., & Marsh, V. (2021). Model for developing context-sensitive responses to vulnerability in research: Managing ethical dilemmas faced by frontline research staff in Kenya. BMJ Global Health, 6, e004937. Morrow, V. (2008). Ethical dilemmas in research with children and young people about their social environments. Children’s Geographies, 6(1), 49–61. Ni, M. Y., Kim, Y., McDowell, I., Wong, S., Qiu, H., Wong, I. O. L., Galea, S., & Leung, G. M. (2020). Mental health during and after protests, riots and revolutions: A systematic review. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 54(3), 232–243.
Paul Vinod Khiatani and Wing Hong Chui
Policy Innovation and Co-ordination Office. (2022). About us: Policy Innovation and Co-ordination Office. www.pico.gov.hk/en/about_us/PICO.html Smeltzer, S. (2012). Asking tough questions: The ethics of studying activism in democratically restricted environments. Social Movement Studies, 11(2), 255–271. Social Research Association (SRA). (2001). A code for practice for the safety of social researchers. Author. www.the-sra.org.uk/common/Uploaded%20files/SRA-safety-codeof-practice.pdf Social Research Association (SRA). (2021). Research ethics guidance. Author. www.thesra.org.uk/common/Uploaded%20files/Resources/SRA%20Ethics%20guidance%20 2021.pdf Valentine, G., Butler, R., & Skelton, T. (2001). The ethical and methodological complexities of doing research with ‘vulnerable’ young people. Ethics, Place & Environment, 4(2), 119–125. Wong, L., & Kellogg, T. E. (2021). Hong Kong’s national security law: A human rights and rule of law analysis. Georgetown Center for Asian Law. www.law.georgetown.edu/ law-asia/wp-content/uploads/sites/31/2021/02/GT-HK-Report-Accessible.pdf Yiu, W. (2022, January 21). Record 24 per cent jump in number of students leaving Hong Kong’s government-funded universities in past academic year. South China Morning Post. www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/education/article/3164318/record-24-cent-jumpnumber-students-leaving-hong-kongs?utm_content=article&utm_medium=Social& utm_source=Facebook&fbclid=IwAR3tRaYuD_2SGrwxUlAU7SR-se23EIUqCRr 71g4RHb5UffK-INVR_sKHhKk#Echobox=1642780478 Young, L., & Barrett, H. (2001). Ethics and participation: Reflections on research with street children. Ethics, Place & Environment, 4(2), 130–134.
Gaining little things and losing big things The ethics of using deception to gain institutional access Laura Huey Deception is one of the quickest ways to gain little things and lose big things. – Thomas Sowell, 1999
With few exceptions, the use of deception in social scientific research remains as something of a dirty secret within the academy. Where we do find discussions of this conduct, too often they occur in relation to experimental research, where deception is justified as necessary to meeting the goals of a study. Those goals are deemed by the researcher to be of sufficient import that the use of techniques to deceive research participants is seen as a secondary concern. But is it only the participants who are operating under a set of false beliefs? Do researchers also sometimes falsely convince themselves they are producing important social knowledge while inflicting only minimal harm? Or, in the case of criminal justice research, where the subjects of that research are frequently institutions – police, corrections, the courts, parole – seen as natural enemies to one’s social cause, is deception warranted in order to expose real or perceived harmful practices? Is it really the case that such conduct produces little to no harm? In this chapter, I explore the question of deception1 in policing research within the context of one narrow aspect of the research process: deception to gain institutional access to police services. To do so, I draw on my own experiences as an applied policing researcher and the former Director of the Canadian Society of Evidence-Based Policing, as well as on the limited scholarly literature in this area. What I intend to demonstrate through the use of examples of researcher deception I have encountered throughout my career is – contrary to the justifications provided by a select number of self-interested researchers – how the research practice of deceiving individuals, agencies, and institutions has larger negative effects on the research enterprise as a whole. In Canada, it is one of the factors leading to what can only be described as a largely moribund policing research space, one increasingly acknowledged by researchers, policy-makers, and indeed police services, as being in a state of decline (Public Safety Canada, 2013; Griffiths, 2014).
Deception as a tool for gaining institutional access In this chapter, I define deception as the intentional misleading of research participants about the true aims of a study and/or about the procedures employed to conduct the research. Most discussions of the use of such tactics in the social sciences begin with well-known examples, notably Milgram’s (1963) classic obedience to authority experiments. Rather than cover already well-worn territory, I’d prefer to focus instead on a narrower issue: using deception to gain access to social institutions for research purposes. As I noted in this chapter’s introduction, too few researchers have been willing to discuss this issue, although it is reasonable to surmise – given the volume of critical research produced on criminal justice institutions each year in criminology and criminal justice studies – that this practice is occurring sub rosa. To be clear, for some researchers the use of deception in social science research is deeply problematic as it is seen to strike at the heart of the bargain that is fundamental to the research enterprise: that both researchers and participants are entering into an agreement based on mutual interests and mutual respect. To enter into that agreement in good faith, the researcher must clearly articulate the purpose and goals of the research, which is clearly not the case when researchers obscure or lie about their true intentions to gain institutional access. Not surprisingly then, in the social scientific literature on deception in research, one aspect of this agreement has received more attention than others: the issue of informed consent (Punch, 1986; Cunliffe & Alcadipani, 2016). Clarke (1999, p. 151), for example, has argued that the demand for informed consent “raises an apparent dilemma” in research that requires deception because this standard requires us to “either abandon the demand for strict adherence to informed consent standards, or abandon the use of deceptive practices in social science research”. In Canada, the Tri-Council agencies that fund and govern scientific research have attempted to sidestep this issue through language that permits the use of deceptive practices for “critical research” on social institutions to which a researcher might not otherwise gain access. This approach, as I argue in more detail shortly, creates a wide berth for researchers to cast their work as of sufficient social benefit to outweigh any minimal or minimised short-term costs. What it does not provide is guidance on the weighing, addressing, and/or minimising of the potential long-range costs of such actions, which, as I will elaborate on shortly, will be borne by the research community as a whole. Why is it that policing and other criminal justice researchers may feel the need to obscure or lie about their intentions in order to gain institutional access? Fortunately, more researchers have been willing to discuss difficulties faced in seeking access to police, correctional services, and other criminal justice institutions and entities. Although some of the classic ethnographies in the criminal justice literature come from policing researchers with access to police organisations (Skolnick, 1966; Bittner, 1967; Van Maanen, 1978; Punch, 1979; Brown, 1988), the institution of policing has historically been portrayed as a “closed shop” to outsiders
Gaining little things and losing big things 33 (Bruckner, 1967; Fox & Lundman, 1974). While some scholars have provided explanations for this state of affairs that include such concerns as the sensitive nature of police work (Fox & Lundman, 1974), there has been a marked tendency within the academic literature to over-emphasise both real and perceived blocks associated with negative aspects of policing. One such negative aspect is the inherently conservative nature of the culture of public policing, which is seen as reactionary, hidebound, and/or open to change. Bradley and Nixon (2009, p. 427) capture this perspective in depicting policing as “practically oriented, reactive, control oriented, and generally conservative in values”, which individually and in combination are said to make it difficult for police agencies “to engage with the agenda and the language of the critical police research tradition”. Others, including Johnston and Shearing (2009), also ascribe to police the motive of seeking to avoid transparency due to fears of public exposure of corruption, error, or faults. Policing as “a closed system”, Bell (1979, p. 113) tells us in one such example, is a deliberate policy approach intended to “prevent public scrutiny and reduce criticism of their decision-making, policies, and practices”. There are, of course, two or more sides to every story. And while some police organisations have been forthright enough in the past to acknowledge their desire not to be publicly subjected to criticism or the featured subject of a “researcher exposé” (see Griffiths, 2014), there are also other factors at play when organisations decide whether to admit researchers. Certainly, over the past 20 years of my career in policing research, I have repeatedly heard the same message from police leaders: police services are not set up to be in the business of conducting research. While this remains largely true today, most mid- to large-sized Canadian agencies now have some internal capacity for hosting and/or working with outside academics. That said, one factor that scholars have consistently failed to note is that research within agencies typically relies on organisational use of human resources and, in some instances, can be labour intensive. To provide one small example: I once requested a data set of closed missing person cases from the Record Management System (RMS) of a mid-sized police agency, thinking that this would simply be a matter of an hour or two of work. In the response I received the next day, I was advised that I could have the data set in several weeks, as it would take that long for the data to be extracted and cleaned. What I failed to account for is the fact that most police data are full of errors, duplicate records, incomplete fields, and personal information, the latter of which needs to be removed from multiple fields in one record, including the written synopsis of the event. By the time I received the data, a few months had passed. Field-based and other types of research can also be labour intensive, albeit in different ways. Any researcher entering a police service today will likely be expected to sign a memorandum of agreement, receive a criminal record and/or background checks, and be assigned a liaison to assist in providing internal support for the researcher. All of those activities – engaged in before the researcher even begins work – consume police resources. Once the research process is well underway, it is worth bearing in mind that every hour of interview time is an hour in which that participant is not engaged in the primary duties for which they are
being paid. These are costs that add up and for which the police service expects, at a minimum, some return on investment. In most cases, this return is intended to come in the form of a promised policy or research brief based on the study’s findings. Too often, though, the promised report fails to make an appearance. Indeed, one of the issues frequently raised to me by individuals within police planning, research, and/or policy departments is the failure or unwillingness of researchers to provide their results and/or any type of debriefing once they are done. I term this the “hit it and quit it” approach to police research. The expectation that institutional investments in research will provide some type of return for the investor organisation is often stymied in other, more costly ways. One police agency spent an untold amount of money on creating funded research Chair positions. Only one of those Chairs produced applied work of any value to the organisation. The other Chair failed to deliver anything of use to the organisation, a fact that was well known across various parts of the agency. Thus, when I presented at a national policing event on the need for police-academic collaborative research partnerships, it was of little surprise to be asked point blank by one senior member of this organisation for my thoughts on that particular situation and what it says about the value of such investments. There was else little I could say, but “yup, you got screwed”.
How to deceive an institution into giving up access: 101 Most of the common methods of deception are well known to experienced researchers and are commonly viewed by academics as being “minor” in nature. For example, Cunliffe and Alcadipani (2016, p. 544) reference a rather common set of techniques as “managing impressions”: “potted biographies, self-presentation, faking/developing identity and interest, concealing and sharing intentions”. Other scholars have described impression management as a “form of subtle deception” occurring when “researchers manipulatively present themselves in ways that promote accessibility to data” (Oscar et al., 2018, p. 3). Such activities might include feigning disinterest in the political or other implications of the research or offering sympathetic views of an organisation or its practitioners to show solidarity (ibid.) – that is, acting as what Van Maanen (1978) terms a “fan”. Researchers may also fake a rapport with an institutional gatekeeper, a method of false intimacy (Funder, 2005) that some scholars have acknowledged as being “disingenuous” (Reeves, 2010). Another cited technique is the practice of anonymous observation, deliberately loitering, pretending to be distracted or focused elsewhere, or otherwise acting as the proverbial fly on the wall in a situation in order to gain data not otherwise available (Hammersley & Atkinson, 2007). In other instances, researchers promise a project or an end product they have no intention of delivering. The latter situation – which some researchers might term a “minor deception” – has already been illustrated here through the example of the research report that failed to materialise after the project had been completed. The former situation is easily demonstrated through another example, a story in which I became an unwilling participant. As policing researchers are
Gaining little things and losing big things 35 keenly aware, relationships between academic researchers and police organisations and practitioners are built over time through trust and open communication. It is also a world in which reputations mean everything and police and researchers alike trade information on “who is who” and their reputation. In that capacity, I have been approached on multiple occasions to provide information to a policing agency seeking to “vet” a possible researcher and their collaboration. On one such occasion, I was contacted by a police service with whom I have a longstanding relationship about a proposed evaluation of one of their training courses. The evaluation sought to measure the effects of anti-racist training on sworn members of the organisation. The organisation, in good faith, wanted to know if the training was having the desired effect. However, given the sensitive nature of the subject matter, they wanted to know if the researchers might be being less than truthful about their intentions. I had concerns about the primary researcher based on what I had heard from more than one other policing scholar. Thus, I had three choices in front of me: 1. 2. 3.
Refuse to answer the query Be less than honest Provide an honest assessment
I chose to provide an honest assessment both to protect the integrity of my relationship with that agency and to possibly forestall the type of “burning bridges” problem which I will have more to say shortly. In the end, the agency disregarded my advice and approved the study, only to contact me sometime later to say, “you were right” when they began to have suspicions that the purpose of the research did not align with the stated goals of the work as outlined in their research contract.
Once burned: the costs of deceit Over the years, I have been approached by police agencies with numerous stories similar to those related earlier. I do not think I overstate the matter when I say that, for many police practitioners, their sole experience with researchers has come in the form of interactions that have left them feeling duped. This is hardly a novel insight; previous police scholars have made similar observations. As an example, in his classic work, “The Asshole”, John Van Maanen (1978, p. 354) states of rookie police officers, all too soon they discover that researchers – among a host of other “suspect individuals” – are “not to be trusted, are unpredictable, and are usually out-to-get-the-police” (see also Bradley & Nixon, 2009). Similarly, Punch (1986, p. 72) describes what he terms the practice of “ripping and running” among researchers – that is the disappearing act that occurs when the researcher’s true motives are revealed, leaving organisations and their members to feel “ripped off”. Trust in social scientists, hard-earned and often only cautiously given by criminal justice agencies, evaporates quickly in the face of researcher deceit. The individual researcher or team that has absconded with “the goods”, so to speak, rarely
bares the cost of their actions directly or alone (if ever). Instead, I would argue, the repercussions of this loss of trust fall on all other researchers. In Canada, this has had a significant effect in reducing our ability to generate high-quality, actionable research to inform police policy or practice. You need not take my own words for this; similar remarks have been made in a host of governmental and other documents produced during a federal policy exercise conducted here termed the “Economics of Policing” (EOP). In response to the perception that policing costs were rising at unsustainable levels, in 2012 the Canadian federal government convened a series of public policy exercises intended to generate solutions to reduce costs. What they quickly discovered is that Canadian policing research has been largely stagnant over the preceding two decades, producing very little work of use that could be applied to address this or other related policy issues. As I have said elsewhere (Huey, 2017), one significant factor has been chronic underfunding. However, as others have also noted, another key issue is the lack of research partnerships between police agencies and academic scholars (Griffiths, 2014). In a study of the state of the policing research environment commissioned by Public Safety Canada, Curt Griffiths interviewed police leaders and academic researchers and the insights provided in relation to levels of trust between the two groups are noteworthy. In essence, both sides cited lack of trust as a barrier to developing new research. For police interviewees, a recurring theme was the perception – likely correct in some cases – that critical research often serves little purpose but to “condemn” or “embarrass police services” without providing practical solutions to address legitimate issues (ibid., p. 40). The failure of “rip and run” academics to deliver the promised policy briefs and other outputs outlined in their research agreements no doubt also plays a role in supporting such suspicions. Griffiths’ findings are supported by a more recent study from Greg Brown (2017), in which he examined the issue of police–researcher collaboration post-EOP. What Brown similarly noted is the majority of police leaders interviewed had reservations about working with university-based researchers because of trust issues. Whereas in previous decades they might have approved a study without knowing anything about the researcher or research team, those executive officers interviewed by Brown made it clear they were now more inclined to vet researchers carefully, including checking their previous publications or asking trusted academic researchers for their assessments. A hint that someone may not be entirely trustworthy is sufficient to ensure access is closed. Again, I have seen this first hand. Such was the case with a researcher who sought access to a crime analysis unit of police service and misrepresented the nature of this individual’s work, claiming a track record of applied work with police agencies. A couple of queries on Google quickly told a different tale. Another agency did not undertake such inquiries and, perhaps not surprisingly, when I gave a talk there on the need for increased researcher–police collaborations, I faced an unhappy reception from those in the agency’s research department. Police researchers, policy planners, and others had more than a few negative comments to make based on their previous experiences with academic researchers. We were arrogant and non-collaborative. We “ripped and ran”.
Gaining little things and losing big things 37 One immediate effect of lack of police trust in university researchers is closed institutional doors. Another effect noted includes the new spate of multi-page applications researchers are being asked to fill out and reviewed by police services in advance of any research agreements. When I started some 20 years ago, it was often sufficient for me to email a request to a police leader. Today, I may face an 8–10-page form that rivals a research ethics board (REB) protocol from my university. Other agencies demand actual copies of REB documents as a means of ensuring the integrity of the researcher and/or they are not being duped. Unfortunately, this may create a potential incentive for researchers to also mislead their ethics boards about the nature of their research and then subsequently claim they found something out as an “accidental discovery”. For me, the most significant impact of lack of trust is the larger effects it has had on the ability of Canadians to generate, use, and share home-grown policing research of sufficient quality to inform public policy and practice. In 2016, I set out to examine the state of Canadian policing research over the preceding 10 years (2006–2015) (Huey, 2016). I did so by conducting a scoping review of the peerreviewed, published literature on Canadian policing. What I discovered was there had only been 188 published papers over that entire 10-year period. I also found there was little diversity in the methods used, with most studies employing fairly basic quantitative research methods. Only 18 of the studies were experimental. In looking at the papers by topic, it was readily apparent that we produce few studies on any one topic and that some important topics were missing from the research literature altogether. In 2019, I revisited this exercise, updating my review with data from the years 2016 to 2017 (Huey, 2019). The inclusion of these 2 years produced an additional 61 papers. However, not much else had changed. The papers remained largely the same in terms of topics covered and methods employed. We still remained without research on issues such as police anti-terrorism strategies, diversity issues within policing, police education, policing of human trafficking, police misconduct, police integrity, police reforms, police recruitment, and violence against police. Important issues for Canadians, such as Indigenous policing and cyberpolicing, increased marginally or not at all. Topics that were cutting-edge U.S. research circles in the latter part of the 2010s – topics not coincidentally requiring active police participation – were not present at all, including procedural justice, hot spot policing, focused deterrence, and harm-focused policing. In no small part, the Canadian policing research landscape looks barren, certainly relative to our usual comparators, our United Kingdom, the United States, and Australian counterparts, because of chronic government underfunding and an obvious lack of policy direction at both federal and provincial levels. As is the case with most problems in public policy, funding alone is not the solution. Increased funding of police research will not fix the trust issues that keep police doors closed or only slightly ajar. Without strong ethical guidelines in place, guidelines aimed at building inter-institutional trust, what it may do, however, is provide another perverse incentive for some researchers to “hit it and quit it”. After all, most of those who engage in these practices do not bear the consequences. Instead, it
remains to those of us who remain, seeking to actually influence police practice and policy in positive and empirically grounded ways, to pick up the pieces.
Note 1 While the focus here is on intentional deception, there are other potential ways in which researchers may inadvertently and/or deliberately act that impair trust in researchers.
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Gaining little things and losing big things 39 Oscar, R., Ola, L., Robert, K., & Markus, H. (2018). Negotiations and research bargains: Bending professional norms in the effort to gain field access. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 17(1), 1–11. Public Safety Canada (PSC). (2013). Summit on the economics of policing: Strengthening Canada’s advantage. Summit Report of Public Safety Canada, Ottawa, January 16–17. Retrieved March 30, 2014, from www.publicsafety.gc.ca/cnt/rsrcs/pblctns/smmt-cnmcsplcng-2013/smmt-cnmcs-plcng-2013-eng.pdf Punch, M. (1979). Policing the inner city. Macmillan. Punch, M. (1986). The politics and ethics of fieldwork. SAGE. Reeves, C. (2010). A difficult negotiation: Fieldwork relations with gatekeepers. Qualitative Research, 10(3), 315–331. Skolnick, J. (1966). Justice without trial: Law enforcement in democratic society. John Wiley & Sons. Sowell, T. (1999). Barbarians inside the gate and other controversial essays. Hoover Institution Press. Van Maanen, J. (1978). The asshole. In P. Manning & J. Van Maanen (Eds.), Policing: A view from the street (pp. 221–238). Goodyear Publishing.
Befriending police officers Reflecting on the ethics of my deceptive buddy researcher tactics Ajay Sandhu
Introduction Based on my experiences as a qualitative researcher, my perception is that many, though not all, police officers are prone to become “reluctant respondents” (Adler & Adler, 2003). Reluctant respondents are unwilling to fully participate in academic research studies, known for their hesitancy to answer interview questions and their tendency to approach researchers with suspicion (Farkas & Manning, 1997; Herbert, 2001). Some officers go so far as to identify researchers as “spies” who subscribe to anti-police politics (Gould, 2010; Herbert, 2001). Some officers do not see the utility in what they call “ivory tower” research, perhaps reflecting academia’s failure to mobilise research findings. The reluctant respondent’s sceptical view of academics validates their “blue code of silence”, which refers to an unwillingness to speak to outsiders about police-related issues (Skolnick, 2002). The “code” places qualitative researchers like me in a difficult position. If I want to gather accurate data about police officers’ experiences, I must first earn the trust of reluctant respondents by replacing their impression of me as a “spy” with an impression of me as an “intensely sympathetic chronicler” (Fine, 1993). While there are many strategies a researcher can use to create a favourable impression of themselves, the strategy that I rely on involves deceptively presenting myself as a “buddy researcher” (Snow et al., 1986). In the current chapter, I draw on my experiences with reluctant respondents to address an ethical critique of my deceptive buddy researcher tactics. Research ethics boards and fellow academics have expressed concerns that my tactics may compromise the ethical standard of informed consent. Such a critique focuses on my tendency to selectively disclose my opinions when interacting with police officers. I may, for example, conceal my critical opinions about the criminal justice system or dodge questions about my general views on controversial political topics. Selective disclosure is a tactic used to maintain the camaraderie I’ve built with police officers as well as a means of avoiding conversations that reluctant respondents may find offensive. I argue that while my buddy researcher tactics feature varying degrees of deception, my tactics are nonetheless ethical as they do not involve misrepresenting my research study or exposing participants to undue risks. My buddy researcher tactics are, instead, a means of maintaining rapport DOI: 10.4324/9781003241515-4
Befriending police officers 41 with research participants; a key goal for the researcher who wants to shift an officer’s impression of them from that of a “spy” to that of an “okay guy” (Herbert, 2001). I begin the chapter with a summary of my experiences as a qualitative researcher seen through a dramaturgical lens. I then discuss the buddy researcher tactics that I employ and tensions between these tactics and the ethical standard of informed consent. I conclude by arguing that my buddy researcher tactics are ethically legitimate by attempting to clarify the fuzzy boundary between selective self-disclosure and unethical violations of informed consent. My primary goal is to support the view that some degree of deceptiveness in qualitative research is ethically legitimate if this deceptiveness is regarding the researcher’s personal opinions and does not undermine a participant’s ability to make an informed choice about their participation in a research study.
My qualitative research experience The police institution is among the least understood and most misrepresented in the criminal justice system (Bittner, 1970, 1990). Confusion surrounding policing is likely a result of the reliance on entertainment media as a source of knowledge about the police officer, police work, and the police institution at large (Banton, 1964; Bayley, 1978; Bittner, 1990; Ericson et al., 1997). Accordingly, qualitative research is regularly used to develop a more accurate understanding of the police officer’s subjective experience and the practical realities of daily police work. Qualitative research has already demonstrated police work rarely lives up to the action-packed narratives of entertainment media. In contrast to the gun-slinging “crime control” depicted in Hollywood films, qualitative studies show that police work is better characterized as “peace keeping”, “social work”, and “knowledge production” (Banton, 1964; Bayley, 1978; Bittner, 1990; Ericson et al., 1997; Skogan, 1992). Even police officers often feel that their daily work rarely meets preconceived expectations (Huey & Ricciardelli, 2015). Rather than crime fighting, police officers realise that most of their time is spent managing traffic, writing reports, and responding to calls for service. While these tasks can include responding to “something-that-ought-not-to-be-happening-and-about-whichsomeone-had-better-do-something-now” (Bittner, 1967), this rarely reflects the heroic life-or-death-crime-fighting seen in films like Die Hard or television shows like COPS (Doyle, 1998). My research adds to the qualitative study of policing by exploring how police experiences and police work have changed in the era of smartphones, social media, big data, and similar technologies. For example, one of my previous qualitative studies explored how police officers experience their “new visibility” (Goldsmith, 2010), as they are subject to various forms of surveillance from smartphoneequipped “copwatchers” and “citizen journalists” (Sandhu, 2016, 2017). My work examined how police react to smartphones and if their growing visibility impacted the quality of their work. In contrast with early hypotheses that police detest being recorded, my research revealed that officers sometimes enjoy being
42 Ajay Sandhu video recorded as they intend to use footage of their work to defend themselves from criticism and complaint. Another one of my previous qualitative studies explored how police officers utilise predictive algorithms to determine where to dedicate their crime control resources (Fussey & Sandhu, 2020; Sandhu & Fussey, 2020). My work examined how police perceive predictive software and how they react to criticisms about the discriminatory patrol work it recommends (Chan & Moses, 2019; Shapiro, 2017). In contrast with early hypotheses that police are eager to utilise predictive policing, my work revealed that officers are aware of the problems of using racially biased input data and are sometimes reluctant to follow the advice of crime-predicting algorithms. In my previous research studies, I used qualitative research methods including semi-structured interviews and participant observation. Both methodologies required regular interaction with research participants in a variety of contexts including foot and vehicular patrols, stakeouts, and within police headquarters as officers prepared reports and analysed crime data. In each of these contexts, I engaged with police officers enthusiastic to participate in my research as well as some “reluctant respondents”, officers who were hesitant about answering my interview questions and suspicious of my intentions (Adler & Adler, 2003). To gather the most representative sample of research participants, I had to strategize how to earn the participation of reluctant respondents alongside their more enthusiastic colleagues. As part of strategizing how to interact with reluctant respondents, I applied dramaturgical theory to conceptualise the interaction between myself, a qualitative researcher, and the reluctant police officer, a potential research participant. Dramaturgy is a theory of social interaction that is used to understand human contact by means of theatrical metaphors (Goffman, 1959). While dramaturgical theories are commonly applied to routine interactions between citizens, they can also be used to understand research interactions which feature their own “impression management” requirements (Myers & Newman, 2007). Dramaturgical theory was particularly useful to me because my research involved conversational interviews between myself and officers. These conditions meant research was more interactional than would be the case if interviews were excessively structured and if they took place in formalised environments at the University campus (Myers & Newman, 2007). Key to the success of my informal and conversational interview was a high degree of rapport between myself and research participants, including participants who were reluctant to speak with an outsider (Heiskanen & Newman, 1997; Miles & Huberman, 1994). Accordingly, dramaturgical theory allowed me to not only conceptualise my interviews but also consider the diversity of impression management elements which were likely to determine whether an officer would participate in my study. The key impression management elements determining the success of my interviews included setting a “stage” where an interviewee felt comfortable speaking to me and producing a “script” of interview questions that encouraged an interviewee to respond. However, I would argue that the most important impression management element was playing a “role” that officers would be willing to interact
Befriending police officers 43 with. The specific role a researcher adopts will, of course, vary from interaction to interaction and from study to study. However, I chose to consistently adopt the role of a “buddy researcher”, a role which encourages participation in my study by creating an impression of me as someone who is sympathetic, friendly, and fun to interact with. I used the buddy researcher strategy because I discovered through my research experiences that it was an effective way of encouraging reluctant respondents to relinquish their commitment to the blue code of silence and to converse with me about even the most controversial topics, including police brutality and racial profiling. I began using the buddy researcher role after formal meetings and during “incidental ethnographic encounters” (Pinsky, 2015) when I could directly address a reluctant respondent’s hesitancy to participate in academic studies. During these incidental encounters, reluctant officers admitted that they were unlikely to participate in academic studies because of concerns about how their interview responses may be misrepresented and how these misrepresentations may harm their personal status as well as their organisation’s reputation. It was in these interactions that I had my best opportunity to address reluctant respondents by proving that I was friendly and worthy of their time and answers. While there were many ways of proving myself (by discussing my professional experience) and officially mitigating a reluctant respondent’s concerns (by discussing a study’s ethical standards), I relied heavily on unique buddy researcher tactics that I developed over the course of my research. Because the ethical legitimacy of my tactics is my focus in this chapter, I must start by outlining not only the general buddy researcher strategy, but two unique and, I would later learn, controversial tactics that I developed.
My buddy researcher tactics: responding without responding and faking it Dramaturgical “role theory” proposes that all interactions, including interactions between the qualitative researcher and the reluctant police officer, feature the strategic adoption of “guises”. As the theory goes, during a social interaction, each person adopts a guise which informs the attitudes they express and the behaviours they engage in (Linton, 1936; Turner, 1962, 2001). These guises can be based on not only normalised social expectations but also strategic thinking by persons with interactional goals in mind. While these goals differ widely depending on the nature of a specific interaction, common interactional goals include mutually favourable communications and cooperative exchanges without embarrassment and reputational harm. When applied to qualitative research, role theory proposes that the researcher’s attitudes and behaviours are not necessarily reflections of their “true self”, but research instruments used strategically to ensure that interviewees provide researchers with useful data (Bacon et al., 2020). As Gary Alan Fine (1993) explains, the researcher is not a passive “fly on the wall” but an actor who thoughtfully organises what Goffman (1959) calls their “presentation of self” so that the best qualitative data can be produced and collected. Central to
44 Ajay Sandhu qualitative research, then, is the considered adoption of a guise that research participants, including reluctant respondents, are most willing to interact with (Fine, 1993). Snow et al. (1986) outline a diversity of strategic guises that a researcher can adopt including the “credentialed expert”, the “controlled sceptic”, the “ardent activist”, and the “buddy researcher”. Though each guise has strategic value, my experience is that the buddy researcher is a particularly effective guise when interacting with reluctant police officers as it allows the researcher to reduce officers’ hesitancy by setting a friendly and collegial tone to research interactions. As Snow et al. (1986) explain, the buddy researcher role involves blending the role of an academic outsider with the role of a sympathetic friend. This blending often involves making conversation about research alongside conversation about an officer’s personal life, the weather, a local sports team, and any number of topics which an officer feels comfortable communicating about. If successful, the buddy researcher can use their blended conversation to build rapport with officers and to encourage them to participate in an academic study. My specific buddy researcher strategy often involves some degree of deception. As part of making friendly conversation with officers, I carefully decide if and how I share my opinions about controversial topics that may emerge. Exemplary topics include racial profiling and police brutality as well as political movements usually associated with the “right-wing”. To maintain my rapport with reluctant responders, I regularly dodge questions about such topics knowing that my opinions may be offensive if they contrast with an officer’s views. For example, while conducting research examining predictive policing technologies in the United Kingdom, some officers asked me questions about my views on the Brexit decision in Europe (the United Kingdom’s decision in 2018 to leave the European Union after 47 years of being a member state) and the election of Donald Trump (a controversial right-wing political figure) in the United States. Uncertain of these officers’ political orientations, I dodged their questions by stimulating interest in the topics they raised without expressing my views. I said things like “I wonder what will happen next, what do you think?” I call this buddy researcher tactic responding without responding and I regularly used it to build rapport with previously reluctant respondents. The officers often obliged my non-response by telling me about their opinions on Brexit or Trump. The responding without responding tactic often created opportunities to transition conversation towards my research, and with appropriate time, sometimes resulted in a signed consent form followed by an audio-recorded interview. Instead of asking me questions about controversial political topics, some reluctant responders would investigate how much of a “buddy” I really was by making rude comments or aiming verbal jabs in my direction. For example, knowing my nationality, some British officers joked about the famous red uniforms of Canadian “Mounties” (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) or, knowing my educational background, some officers jokingly criticised “elitist academics”. My impression is that these comments were a way of assessing my ability to “take a joke” as a buddy would (Spradley, 1979, 2016). I usually responded by laughing, a response
Befriending police officers 45 that reflects a second buddy researcher tactic I utilise: faking it. Rather than criticising a police officer’s comments or jokes (regardless of how dull or offensive they may be), I would fake interest and/or approval of the interviewee’s comments by saying something like “that is hilarious” and offering a giggle. In many cases, faking it established a high degree of rapport between myself and police officers, sometimes to the point that I could counter with verbal jabs in a back-and-forth interaction. The faking it tactic would sometimes translate into opportunities to ask questions related to my research that officers had previously seemed uncomfortable answering. After all, if I was comfortable with their rude jokes and verbal jabs, it was unlikely that I would be offended by their opinions about police visibility and predictive policing. My reflections detail two of the buddy researcher tactics I used during my previous research studies as well as their effectiveness in building rapport with even the most reluctant respondents. However, beyond questions of effectiveness, several ethical questions emerge when one realises that both of my tactics involve dishonestly presenting myself in a way that conceals my honest opinions. In the following section, I focus on one ethical dilemma: the tension between my deceptive buddy researcher tactics and the ethical ideal of informed consent. I focus on this tension as it has routinely emerged in conversations with members of research ethics boards as well as in conversations with fellow researchers. Many of my conversational partners worried that my tactics are excessively dishonest and potentially unethical. I use this chapter to respond to these concerns.
Balancing my buddy research with informed consent Informed consent refers to the principal that research participants are entitled to know the purpose and details of a research study, including any risks that they may face by participating. In short, potential research participants are entitled to know what they are getting themselves into before agreeing to participate in a study (Fine, 1993). In my experience, abiding by informed consent standards involves providing research participants with, at minimum, a written and oral description of my study’s purpose and methodology, a summary of the risks of participating, and a summary of the protections that I have established to mitigate the risks of participating. In my interview research, for example, it is common to provide an outline of my interview methodology, the specific topics that will be discussed during an interview, as well as sample questions. I then discuss the risks that participants may face if interview data were to be leaked as well as the harm this could do to their reputation and career opportunities. I conclude by summarising the mitigating strategies I adopt to limit the risk of leaked data including data de-identification techniques and data storage methods. Once all these details are understood, participants are asked to sign a consent form. Informed consent is a regular subject of debate among academics (Crow et al., 2006; Sin, 2005). Some argue that excessive informed consent policies can be unduly limiting to researchers as they create a methodological context in which participants are given excessive knowledge about a study. For example, informing
46 Ajay Sandhu potential participants of interview questions before an interview may allow them to prepare their answers (Crow et al., 2006; Librett & Perrone, 2010; Sin, 2005). Counterarguments emphasise how informed consent prevents researchers from interviewing participants under bogus pretences or exposing them to unexpected risks. While I argue that my buddy researcher tactics do not create bogus pretences (Erikson, 1966), I admit they are nonetheless deceptive and involve concealing information about myself from participants (Fine, 1993; Leo, 1996). To some extent, this means that research participants are not fully informed about the researcher conducting a study. I am, thus, faced with an ethical dilemma between performing as what Fine (1993) calls an “honest ethnographer” who makes abundantly clear everything about themselves and their study and my version of what Snow et al. (1986) call a “buddy researcher” who, among other things, selectively discloses information to encourage otherwise reluctant responders to participate in a study. Subtle as my deception is, some may argue that my buddy researcher tactics undermine a potential research participant’s ability to make an informed decision about whether they want to consent to an interview. If such an argument is convincing, research ethics boards may deem my buddy researcher tactics worthy of formal restrictions. I argue that, while the line between ethical and unethical deception is blurry at times, my buddy researcher tactics are, in general, not in violation of informed consent. In what follows I explain why tactics like responding without responding and faking it are ethical by discussing how and when they are used. I explain that I never conceal my position as an academic, the details of my study, or other information that is central to an officer’s ability to make an informed decision about whether to participate. Rather, my buddy researcher tactics are only used to conceal personal opinions or simulate interest so that I can build and maintain rapport with research participants (Reynolds, 1981; Rollins, 1985; Roth, 1962). My buddy researcher tactics are, I conclude, tantamount to the selective disclosure that is common in daily interactions as discussed in dramaturgical theory. We do not often disclose all our opinions during interactions with friends, family, coworkers, and bosses. Rather, like a potential employee discussing their CV during an interview, we selectively disclose information so that we can present ourselves in the most favourable way possible. Similarly, a qualitative researcher selectively discloses information to present themselves in the most favourable way possible to their participants and to build rapport with reluctant respondents. In support of my argument, I offer specific examples of responding without responding and faking it that I have used in previous research experiences. Ethically responding without responding Responding without responding involves avoiding questions from research participants that are unrelated to a research study and/or questions that, if answered, might compromise a data collection opportunity. Of important note is that answering these questions is not required to help a police officer make an informed decision about whether to participate in my study. Rather, these questions tend
Befriending police officers 47 to involve topics that are not immediately related to my research methodology and tend to emerge as I play my buddy researcher role while making conversation with police officers. I can draw from many examples of responding without responding from my research career including my previously mentioned efforts to avoid questions about Europe’s Brexit and the US’s presidential elections. For the current chapter, however, I will focus on an example from an interview with a British Police Supervisor. I use this example because it addresses a topic related to my research but not my research methodology. The interview focused on predictive policing and expectedly began to address issues of racial bias in policing. After acknowledging the overrepresentation of Black people among those who are stopped, searched, detained, arrested, and killed by police officers, the Supervisor became awkwardly silent. He eventually confessed that he wondered if the overrepresentation of Black peoples in the criminal justice system did not reflect biased police work but Black peoples’ proneness to commit crimes. More silence followed until he eventually asked for my thoughts on race, biased policing, and the Black Lives Matter movement. For clarity’s sake, I did not agree with the Supervisor’s explanation of the overpolicing of Black people. However, rather than offering my opinions regarding race and policing, critical opinions which would likely discourage the Supervisor from answering further questions, I responded without responding. I told the Supervisor that I had heard similar claims from his colleagues and encouraged him to tell me more about his views. I carefully managed my language so that he was unlikely to interpret my non-response as critical and I maintained a thoughtful look on my face while very consciously nodding my head to illustrate that I was listening to him. I believe I successfully hid my concerns about the Supervisor’s views, and he slowly began to explain his thoughts in more detail. In due time, conversational flow returned, and the Supervisor continued to answer my interview questions. This allowed me to collect more data on his politics, including regarding race; data that informed my future research conclusions and recommendations. The ethical tension between my responding without responding tactic and informed consent has been a subject of conversation between myself and ethics boards. While tactics used to build rapport are usually “off the books”, they have nonetheless arisen when I have written applications to ethics boards where I am bluntly asked if my project involves any degree of deception. The discussion of deceptive research methods has also emerged during conferences, ethnographic training, and in meetings with research boards. On many occasions, these conversations feature a member of a research ethics board or a fellow academic expressing concern that I am insincere with research subjects like the British Police Supervisor, especially when dodging their questions. Because I do not respond to some participants’ questions, some colleagues have suggested that I am undermining a police officer’s ability to make an informed decision about participating in my study. In response, I have distinguished my buddy researcher tactics from violations of informed consent. I make this distinction by explaining that any questions about my research methodology or my academic background never involve deception.
48 Ajay Sandhu There is no responding without responding when discussing my resume, my research study, risks of participation, data storage, or related topics. I only use my responding without responding tactic during conversations with participants which involve topics which are not directly connected to a research subject’s ability to make an informed decision to participate in my study. In the previously mentioned example, the Supervisor had been informed of my research methodologies, risks of participating as well as my guarantees of confidentiality, and data security. There was no need for me to provide him with a detailed explanation of my views about racial profiling for him to make an informed decision about participation. Accordingly, while it was deceptive, I argue that my tactic was not a violation of informed consent. Responding without responding can be understood as a dramaturgical strategy which allows me to present myself as an “okay guy” rather than a “spy” by concealing my personal views from reluctant participants (Herbert, 2001). Never do I mislead participants about my intentions as a researcher or my research methodology as this would mean a violation of informed consent. Rather, I only conceal information that I am not required to give an officer as part of the standard of informed consent. It is the distinction between concealing my personal opinions versus concealing information about my study which, I argue, makes the responding without responding tactic ethical and not a violation of informed consent. This same distinction, between how I present myself and how I present my study, can be made when discussing my faking it tactic. Ethically faking it Faking it involves simulating interest and/or appreciation for a police officer’s comments or behaviours. I fake it during interactions with police officers who, for example, want to show me images of their children, give me advice about relationships, and want to tell me about a humorous work experience with a drunken student on the local campus. Usually, I fake it to demonstrate to a police officer that I am curious about their opinions, personal lives, and work experiences, regardless of the relevance to my research project. Deceptive as it is, like responding without responding, I use the faking it tactic to build rapport and increase the likelihood that a police officer, including a reluctant respondent, will participate in my research. To demonstrate the utility and ethical legitimacy of faking it, I will use an example that involved a Canadian police officer’s stakeout outside of a mall. I met this officer while studying how the presence of bystanders with smartphone cameras might impact an officer’s decision to use force. When we spoke, the officer often switched subjects from police visibility to an upcoming stakeout. I suspect that the officer felt awkward discussing his visibility given controversies surrounding recent videos exposing police brutality. Accordingly, our conversations tended to focus on his stakeout, which he repeatedly and proudly said he had planned himself. The officer explained that his stakeout intended to catch a graffiti artist who
Befriending police officers 49 had repeatedly painted the walls of a local mall’s largest entrance. I had no interest in such a stakeout, nor was I interested in discussing an officer’s attempts to detain someone for their graffiti. Despite this, I faked interest in the stakeout by enthusiastically asking the officer about his stakeout strategy alongside conversational topics such as local traffic delays and recent movie releases. After a few chats, the officer surprised me by asking if I was interested in joining him on his stakeout. I agreed. The ensuing six-hour stakeout was tedious from a crime control point of view. We did not discover a graffiti artist or directly contribute to the safety of the mall’s customers or employees. But I continued to fake interest in the officer’s work by asking him about his concentration in policing graffiti and the difficulties of planning a stakeout. My faked interest, I think, showed the officer that I was a “buddy” rather than a “spy” and that I was interested in his experiences as a law enforcement agent. So, conversation flowed as we shared a bag of potato chips and stared at a cement wall awaiting the arrival of someone carrying spray paint. A mixture of mutual boredom and faked interest likely led the officer to return, unprompted, to the subject of my research. He was no longer reluctant to speak about his visibility, now enthusiastic to tell me about his interactions with citizens holding smartphones. He eventually consented to an audio-recorded interview and contributed to my research data. As with my responding without responding tactic, the ethical tension between my faking it tactic and informed consent has been a common topic of conversation, especially among fellow qualitative researchers. In conversations, my colleagues expressed concern that my research subjects were “manipulated” into participating in my studies. Some went so far as to suggest that I was indeed a “spy” who misled officers into speaking with me and undermined the officers’ ability to make an informed decision about participating in my studies. In response, I distinguished my tactics from violations of informed consent. I explained that, in accordance with informed consent, any questions about my research or my academic background were never faked. I always proactively explained my research study in detail to potential research participants, sometimes at the risk of boring them (I would not be surprised if some officers have faked interest in my research as I fake interest in their stakeouts). These explanations were used to ensure that participants were fully aware that, regardless of my interest in their children, marriage, or stakeouts, I was a researcher interested in collecting interview data about a particular quality of police work. In the previously mentioned example, I may have deceptively faked an interest in the officer’s stakeout with the goal of encouraging him to participate in my study, but I never misled the officer about my research methodology or any risks he may face if he agreed to participate. Informed consent did not require that I speak to him honestly and openly about my disinterest and/or critical views about police graffiti. Faking it, in other words, was a dramaturgical technique used to encourage communication between myself and the reluctant respondent. Faking it was not, I concluded, a technique used to mislead research participants about my research study or research methodology.
50 Ajay Sandhu
Conclusion: the ethical legitimacy of buddy researcher tactics My version of the buddy researcher strategy is deceptive. It allows me to dishonestly present myself so that reluctant responders are more likely to tolerate my presence, participate in my research study, and answer my interview questions. My buddy researcher tactics do not, however, violate informed consent. My tactics do not undermine a participant’s ability to make an informed decision about whether to participate. They do not involve misinforming a research participant about a study or concealing any risks they may face by participating. Rather, my tactics are dramaturgical strategies intended to build rapport, avoid offense, and improve research interactions with even the most reluctant respondents. Though they are deceptive, I conclude that my research tactics should not be understood as violations of informed consent. Further, I argue that trying to regulate such tactics is exemplary of “ethics creep” which inappropriately stretches the domains of research ethics boards beyond its formal purview (Haggerty, 2004). My arguments should not be taken as a suggestion that buddy researcher tactics are incapable of violating ethical standards. Buddy researcher strategies can be exaggerated to a point at which ethical concerns become legitimate. For example, officers have sometimes asked me if my study draws on critical race theory. In these scenarios, I have always acknowledged the critical literature my research draws upon despite the chance that this may discourage their participation in my study. I have taken such an approach because questions about my theoretical approach to research can reveal an overlap between my personal opinions and my research. In such cases, concealing my opinion would mean concealing information about my research model. So, I clearly and directly answer such questions. I do not respond without responding and I do not fake it. However, such questions are rare. When using my buddy researcher tactics, I am most often asked about my personal opinions on topics that are either unrelated to my study or unrelated to their ability to make an informed decision about participating in my study. Such topics include local and international politics or perhaps my favourite food or television show. As such, my buddy research tactics are, in most cases, ethical and primarily a means for rapport building and conflict avoidance. My tactics are dramaturgical techniques used to manage how a researcher presents their “self”; they are not misleading tactics used to misrepresent a researcher’s study.
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Practitioner–researchers, ethical reflexivity, and the need to negotiate ethics on multiple institutional levels Ana Borges Jelinic
As in many parts of the world, research in Australia faces increasing challenges to be approved by research ethics boards, an issue particularly relevant when considering fieldwork and qualitative research. When this research project was conducted at the University of Queensland (UQ – 2016–2020), the research ethics requirements were that only desktop research (negligible risk) and human research causing only possible discomfort with some non-marginalised groups (low risk) could be approved by the School/Department’s internal committee (University of Queensland, 2022a). Consequently, most research involving people were submitted for approval to the university’s research ethics committee, the Human Research Ethics Committee (HRECs), including autoethnographic research, observational research and research that in the recent past would have been considered low risk. Indigenous peoples and people with mental health diagnosis, among others, were considered particularly vulnerable groups, and their involvement in research could mean a project being categorised as high-risk. A high-risk project would be expected to produce more evidence of risk mitigation and the process of evaluating this evidence could be lengthy and eventually delay data collection, besides the real risk of a project being refused on ethical grounds. Moves towards more control have attracted criticism from researchers around the globe (Israel et al., 2016), with Australian researchers questioning this tendency for decades (Israel et al., 2016). As the understanding of what constitutes ethical practices is not universal (Carlen, 2016), there are also questions regarding the suitability of ethical research guidelines developed in the medical field for social multicultural research (Carlen, 2016; Israel, 2014) and research with Indigenous/First Nation peoples (Bargallie et al., 2020; Walter, 2016). Some have also criticised the infantilisation of research participants and the demands for informed consent that may frame certain participants as incapable of negotiating consent, such as participants with mental health diagnoses and culturally and linguistically diverse participants (Connor et al., 2017). Others have criticised standard informed consent practices that require participants to have high levels of literacy and linguistic ability (Israel, 2014). Carlen (2016) has presented questions on the suitability of ethics board’s concerns to research that does not threaten life but institutional and individual reputations, in a context where ethics committees are not able to oversee research DOI:10.4324/9781003241515-5
54 Ana Borges Jelinic progression. Meanwhile, qualitative researchers, especially in more collaborative approaches, are unable to anticipate many ethical challenges before starting the research (Carlen, 2016). The qualitative research landscape will often require ongoing reflection on ethical dilemmas going beyond anything presented in the ethics committee submission (Moriña, 2020). The criticism is not to diminish the importance of ethics, as it is fundamental in all human relations, including research (Moriña, 2020). Questioning ethics guidelines is here an exercise of attempting to make them more useful for research conducted cross-culturally and all qualitative obtrusive research. Consequential to this mismatch between research realities and ethics committees’ expectations, important and ethically sound work may be blocked by ethics committees unprepared to deal with different ethics frameworks (Israel et al., 2016) or even by faculty attempting to avoid a lengthy and demanding ethics application process. Despite universities’ ethics committees containing numerous academics (University of Queensland, 2022a), the relationship between faculties and ethics boards can be mainly antagonistic. Israel et al. (2016) hypothesise that people at all levels of this ethics process may not understand their roles and how to best contribute to the process, including PhD supervisors and faculty in general, potentially adding to the tension in these institutional interactions. The relationship between faculty members and the university’s ethics board was particularly strained when I started my PhD in 2016 and submitted my ethics protocol in 2017. The strain resulted in a situation where faculty members (including one of my supervisors) and panel members attempted to change the research to allow for a faster ethics process and even after the research gained the ethics committee approval, one of my supervisors could not find in that approval sufficient reassurance to respond to ethical issues. While part of the issue is how ethics questions continue to emerge during the development of qualitative research (Carlen, 2016; Moriña, 2020), another two aspects seemed to play a role in the faculty’s struggle with the ethical dilemmas. In this research project, the challenges included the generalised mistrust between faculty members and ethics committees, and the faculty’s unfamiliarity with qualitative criminological research, particularly involving cross-cultural communication, besides the need for ongoing ethical reflexivity in qualitative research with vulnerable populations.
Changes in ethics landscape in the university When conducting my masters’ level research project with migrant children in 2012–2014, the project was considered low risk and approved by my faculty in an internal committee process, without the need for an application to the university’s ethics committee. At that time, negligible risk and low-risk research could be approved at the school/department level and the category “low-risk” was broad. I was researching in the School of Education and that faculty advised me to avoid interviews inside schools, as those institutions presented “real red tape”, for a number of reasons. Faculty could not conceive of university creating similar
Practitioner–researchers and ethical reflexivity 55 barriers and provided I interviewed the children outside schools and with parental consent, the research could go ahead without elaborate research ethics protocols. Everything had changed dramatically by 2016, when I started my PhD conducting criminology research at the same university but in the School of Law. By then, my university was dealing with the aftermath of a high-profile case of ethical approval mismanagement (Foster, 2016). In 2013, the School of Economics had signed off on a research project that was considered low risk (Foster, 2016). The project involved some public deception with “actors” entering municipal buses and asking for a free bus ride, in an attempt to identify racial biases when accepting or refusing passengers to ride for free (Mujcic & Frijters, 2013). The research findings put the city bus company under scrutiny and created a conflicting situation when the company complained to the university on the grounds that it should had been considered a research participant with the right to refuse or withdraw consent (Foster, 2016); an open question associated with research using deception (Israel, 2014). In consequence, the research project was pulled, many accusing the university of curbing free speech and freedom of thought, and with the researchers eventually leaving the university (Foster, 2016). The last legal cases related to the project ended in 2016 (Foster, 2016). Afterwards, the university implemented a number of changes in the evaluation of risk and ethics processes more broadly in the institution – particularly concerning social research – with a considerable reduction on what would be considered “low-risk” and all other projects being sent to the university’s ethics committee (see University of Queensland, 2022a). The result was that in 2016/2017, my whole faculty was particularly sensitive to risk in research projects, unfamiliar with the new grading system and seemed more likely to classify projects as high risk. In this context, the faculty ethics committee antagonism intensified, with ethics committees being perceived as wielding policing powers and researchers as potential offenders, a dynamic already described in previous research (Israel et al., 2016). In this adversarial environment, the ethics application process became a barrier to be overcome instead of an opportunity to think and propose new or improved ethical approaches to research problems. Furthermore, there was no willingness from many faculty members to understand their role and contribute to the ethics process leaning towards avoidance, with the advice given being often, “just don’t tell the ethics committee”, or more accurately, “don’t do it, so you don’t have to tell them”. Research supervisors are considered part of the research team at UQ; as such, complaints regarding research could also include complaints towards the supervisory team, which happened in the School of Economics’ case (Foster, 2016; UQ, 2021). I was advised to not conduct research with participants I may know from previous workplaces (even though I was designing the project as a practitioner–researcher), and to consider avoiding people from my ethnic background that I may encounter in community gatherings, alongside participants that may require interpreters to communicate. The concerns regarding multiple roles, informed consent, and cross-cultural communication were approached by faculty as issues to be avoided instead of them focusing on supporting the writing of a
56 Ana Borges Jelinic document that could serve as the basis for new or improved responses to these ethical dilemmas and the actual ongoing ethical reflexivity required in fieldwork. As previously indicated, there is a risk for a doctoral student’s ethics protocols to become stale documents as soon as the research starts, because the application has to be submitted before data collection, and outside reportable events, ethics boards usually do not monitor projects as they proceed (Carlen, 2016). Instead, a faculty panel with no involvement with the university’s ethics committee conducts scheduled “check ins” on the project progression. A possible outcome is that the ethics protocol is not consulted anymore and does not inform the next steps in the project, leading to research decisions that do not take the ethics research document into consideration. This is a real risk for all but is particularly concerning for novice researchers and researchers not familiar with the population (and this population’s respective needs) they are planning to research. However, some members of the supervisory team and faculty seemed to not perceive the lack of oversight as a risk but almost a necessary development in research. Instead of “first you develop the document then we use it as basis for ongoing reflections in ethical practices”, the message was “first we develop the document to get ethics approval, then you throw it in a drawer and focus on the actual research”. As a migrant woman without a legal background and deeply involved with the population I was researching, I had no option but to acknowledge those characteristics when writing my ethics application. At that moment in my professional life, I had already conducted some research projects and I was a “practitioner– researcher” researching a population with which I was very familiar. My knowledge of that cohort (of which I am part) did not prevent all ethical dilemmas during data collection and publication, but my knowledge assisted me in anticipating some of my future challenges and the importance of having some of my responses to ethical issues validated by the ethics committee. Practitioner–researchers are researchers that use their professional practice to conduct research or those who conduct research with the cohort with which they usually work (Campbell & Groundwater-Smith, 2007). Many ethics codes have a genuine concern with avoiding dual roles and power differentials and issues of conflict of interest that may worsen when the researcher is also a practitioner who engages with that cohort in their research (Campbell & Groundwater-Smith, 2007). However, these questions are frequently framed from an understanding that researchers are outsiders with more social status than the participants, while participants are imagined to be literate in English and reasonably capable to understand and navigate the potential challenges of participating in research even though this is not always the case (Israel, 2014; Carlen, 2016). Due to a particular involvement with the community they research, practitioner–researchers may be able to bring a more relevant ethics discussion for the process (Campbell & Groundwater-Smith, 2007). This is what I believed we were doing during the ethics application and while the process was full of shortcomings, it also revealed how ethics application documents can provide a space to plan for ethics in practice with the participants and to ground potentially
Practitioner–researchers and ethical reflexivity 57 transformative practices in the fabric of the research bureaucracy, including committees and faculty.
The research project Experiences in my private practice motivated the research project. I have privately practiced psychology for almost a decade with a focus on migrant women survivors of domestic and family violence (D.F.V.) and particularly women on temporary visas. I often worked alongside migration agents and lawyers that requested me to provide assessments and reports for their clients’ legal processes. The most common was the provision of statutory declarations presenting my professional opinion if the clients were in fact survivors of D.F.V. when they were in a partner visa pathway. Such documentation can be one of the key documents in an immigration bid to remain in Australia and acquire permanent residency through the “F.V. provisions” (Borges Jelinic, 2020). I refer to the women going through this process – migrant women on a partner visa pathway that separate due to D.F.V., as “sponsored women” (Borges Jelinic, 2020) and I will keep this term here to refer to this group and differentiate from other migrant women cohorts. The statutory declarations were requested every few weeks and observing the shared issues and uniqueness of sponsored women, I became interested in studying secondary victimisation by the state and how much the experience of D.F.V. and the visa pathway itself contributed to the deterioration of women’s mental health. I decided to conduct two in-depth semi-structured interviews with each sponsored woman going through the “F.V. provisions” process. Once I started designing the research, I was making a number of ethical considerations to ensure I did not further disadvantage an already marginalised group; for instance, while my research topic is important, the population impacted who would constitute my sample is small. The number of sponsored women is small particularly when compared to the overall number of partner visas granted every year. In the 2017–2018 period, 39,799 partner visas were issued in Australia (75% of applicants were women), comprising 83.4% of all family migration and almost 25% of all migration (Department of Home Affairs, 2018). Nevertheless, previous research indicates that only 1.6% of all partner visa applicants ever pursue the “F.V. provisions” (Australian Institute of Criminology, 2017), indicating that in the year I would conduct my data collection, just under 640 partner-sponsored people would be applying for the F.V. provisions. Adjusting for gender and division by state, it would be around 150 women in Queensland, Australia, the state where the research would be conducted. Moreover, the Department of Immigration could take between 6 and 12 months (and sometimes over a year) to determine whether permanent residency should be granted under the “F.V. provisions” (Department of Home Affairs, 2018; Administrative Appeals Tribunal Migration and Refugee Division, 2019), meaning that sponsored women that initiated the visa process years earlier could still be eligible to participate in my research. I was interviewing participants at any stage of the visa process. In summary, there was a small pool of sponsored
58 Ana Borges Jelinic women to find and that number would be further reduced if eliminating my current clients as potential participants. Additionally, considering the characteristic of my business, the chances that I would encounter women that eventually would be in need of my services was amplified and brought forward as one of the main ethics questions of this research, that is, how to maintain boundaries between clients and research participants without disadvantaging any of these populations. Consent given freely was ensured by having women’s services approaching women about the research first and only later they would know I was the researcher (and once again they would be given the option to withdraw). Still, there was the question if entering the research would disadvantage women, in case they needed specific psychological services later. After all, I had myself created my clinic to attend to this specific demand. Questions regarding power, consent, dual roles, and conflict of interest were posed routinely by the reality of this research project. The methodology chosen for this research was grounded in feminist practices such as the Listening Guide and the Voice Centred Relational method that demand involvement of participants in multiple stages of data collection and analysis (Brown & Gilligan, 1993; Doucet & Mauthner, 2008). These practices are intimately related to Carol Gilligan’s ethics of care (Gilligan, 2014, 2015), an approach to ethics that encompasses feminist and psychological theory and is suitable for cross-cultural communication but is not well known in legal sciences (Gilligan, 2015). Ethics of care starts from the premise that humans are inherently relational, emphasising the importance of voice and listening (Bussu et al., 2019; Brown & Gilligan, 1993). This approach to ethics in research would have to inform the ethics protocol if I was to remain committed to this framework. The faculty (academic managers for high-degree research and senior leaders at the school) had little trust that the ethics committee would accept the project without questions, and some of the research supervisors were not confident in positive ethics committee outcomes without some concessions. Once I explained there was no research without acknowledging and engaging with the inherent complex ethics questions in this research proposal, I was advised to write an ethics committee application document that ended up being 70 pages long (including attachments) to support my claim that I could conduct research with a population I had been engaging with for almost a decade. Moreover, I was still encouraged to refrain from insisting on some aspects of the proposed project (e.g. engaging former clients). The persistent antagonistic attitude towards the ethics committee seemed to indicate not only a fear of the committees’ interference but also a dismissal by the faculty of the real ethical issues entangled in this research project that to me were concerns that elevated the relevance of the project. My response was to write the long document requested, sharing all my reflections on ethics, in an attempt to maximise the usefulness of the ethics protocol in thinking through the research project. I viewed this as a document to later be used to defend my research decisions when dealing with groups in academia that may be unfamiliar with my approaches to research and ethics reflexivity.
Practitioner–researchers and ethical reflexivity 59 Criminology is interdisciplinary by definition. Because of the wide range of topics studied within criminology, researchers have required a variety of different methods to address various topics (Bargallie et al., 2020). Many times criminological research will be conducted outside a university criminology department (University of Queensland, 2022b), but in departments without the same appreciation and ability to support interdisciplinarity. At the School of Law, there was hesitation around obtrusive research in general, particularly participative research that involved the consultation of legal documents from open cases. This hesitation came through throughout the project, in each milestone. Of note, the ethics committee that could be perceived as distant, policing, and gatekeeping, ended up playing the role of validating the research project and assisting with calming faculty members’ anxieties around the project. The Human Research Ethics Committees (HRECs) that evaluate ethics applications are not discipline-specific. As such, ethics applications are allocated to the HRECs based solely on the date of submission (University of Queensland, 2022b). The need for my application to be detailed was very well explained and justified by supervisors and senior faculty and, likely, a less detailed application in a “generalist” committee would have resulted in requests for further information and a delay in data collection. Nevertheless, the advantage of this “generalist” set-up in the context of my research is that a non-specialist committee was able to approve an ethics application that is very upfront about a strong alliance with participants and the possibility of managing dual roles and multiple relationships; an approach that likely would be more difficult to be understood in a committee composed only of legal scholars. Once the research was approved on this level, I found defending the methodology in a faculty that was not familiar with this way of researching easier.
The ethics protocol On November 17, 2017, I submitted my “Human Research Ethics Application. ID: AB03227”. As a highly experienced psychologist in clinical practice with this cohort, I was confident answering questions like “Q1.6.10 Expertise relevant to the research activity/ies”, “P4.2 How will the research project accommodate people with a cognitive impairment, an intellectual disability or a mental illness?”, “how will mental illness be assessed?”, “P4.4 How will you assess whether participants’ cognitive impairment, intellectual disability or mental illness increases their susceptibility to discomfort or distress?”, “Q 2.3.2 Describe the risks and burdens associated with your research”, “11.6 – Distress to the participants”, and “Q 2.3.3 Describe how these risks will be mitigated and managed”, besides questions regarding the safe storage of data. However, my main interest was in the planning of how to guarantee participants’ individual benefits by addressing power in research and manage potential multiple relationships (dual roles) due to concerns regarding conflict of interest and informed consent.
60 Ana Borges Jelinic For instance, in question “12.1 – Individual Benefits”, I answered: Above I have listed possible collective benefits resulting from this research. There are also possible individual benefits to be considered. Some of the possible individual benefits for the participants include the access to further information and contact numbers for support and health services available to them in Australia (Phone List) and benefits from the interview process itself such as the experience of catharsis and the possibility of reflecting on possibly complex life experiences in a private and non-adversarial environment. Another possible benefit is the future use of recorded information as women will be free to use the recorded interview to input into documents, they may be writing for their immigration process, court procedures or similar spaces. Reflecting on benefits enabled me to prepare materials that could somewhat address potential losses for participants in the research. The main potential losses identified related to the risk of women requiring or wanting psychological support after the interviews and being unable to access such support in my clinic. Here, relevance remains significant because my clinic was the only one I knew at the time specially designed to attend to the specific population under study. Therefore, I prepared a phone list with the name of organisations that offered material support, women’s services, and mental health providers, including psychologists trained in assessments for immigration and that made themselves available to take up this clientele, if necessary. I also made sure to assert that recorded material could be used by participants for other purposes, as many sponsored women would struggle to have an interpreter available to discuss their experience in length, even though having an interpreter is a necessary step when preparing paperwork for the visa processes. My primary supervisor suggested women could also record the interview on their own phones to reduce the waiting time for the recordings. Two participants disclosed in their second interview, they had used the recorded material to deliver information to their lawyers. My reflections on the importance of making materials available for sponsored women informed the research in practice, as once the interviews started, I realised I would be able to transcribe all interviews in full and could provide raw interview recordings and transcripts to all participants. Although many participants did not read in English and the transcripts took weeks to be ready for distribution, the transcripts served a similar purpose to the recorded interviews. Additionally, one sponsored woman demonstrated interest in having a copy of the self-assessment tools used for the mental health part of the discussion in the interview, another individual benefit for the research participants. An earlier question in the ethics form addressed dual roles and conflict of interest. In “11.1 – Multiple relationships and Conflict of interest”, I answered: I have extended experience as a psychologist working particularly with migrant women who have experienced domestic violence and sponsored
Practitioner–researchers and ethical reflexivity 61 women. As a result, I often provide assessments to women that require them for their immigration process. New clients in a similar situation and former clients in need of a review of their original assessment seek my psychological services. Consequently, while these professional experiences have informed the interest in this research and possibly my ability to conduct the research, there is a risk that women I know (clients and former clients) may become willing to participate in the research creating the possibility of multiple relationships. Multiple relationships can make it difficult to understand the limitations of each professional role, confusing clients on confidentiality and therapeutic expectations. In order to minimise this risk, women will be fully informed about the extent of my involvement with the project and only non-clients or former clients will be accepted in the research and not women that are clients at the times of the interviews. “Former clients” are defined as all women who have received services from the researcher but have been formally informed that the psychological services in my clinic have ceased, and have their files closed for at least 3 months. Services end for many reasons but it is made official at least one month after the last contact and it is agreed between the client and myself that the psychological services have ended. All participants (non-clients and former clients) will be informed at the first contact for the research (before the first interview) that I will not be able to see them as psychology clients, for the duration of the research. This information will be presented again to the participants, written on their information sheet. If research participants later identify the need to start or return to therapy or require psychological assessments, they will be encouraged to look for another psychologist. If it is also identified that it would be in their best interest to receive the psychological services from myself, participants will have to leave the research project. All participants are welcome to leave the project without prejudice. . . . in this protocol there is a discussion about the research benefits, one of them being that it may be positive for women to be interviewed by someone they already trust, reducing possible fears of reporting adversarial information to immigration, for instance. The fact that some rapport was built before can help managing many concerns regarding the research while the fact that women will not be receiving psychological services from myself at the time of recruiting helps to address issues of power imbalance. While the Australian Psychology Code of Ethics recognize that the ethics standards in a research need to be established by the NHMRC (National Health and Medical Research Council), I carry numerous professional ethical obligations to my practice as a researcher . . . . Considering the risk of multiple relationships, the code of ethics states, C.3.3 When entering into a multiple relationship is unavoidable . . . when it is reasonably necessary, adhere to the provisions of standard A.3. (Informed consent). . . . C.3.4. Psychologists declare to clients any vested
62 Ana Borges Jelinic interests they have in the psychological services they deliver, including all relevant funding, licensing and royalty interests. (Australian Psychological Society, 2018, p. 28) My answer established former clients could be part of the research participant pool, acknowledging the complex dynamic of multiple relationships for practitioner–researchers and how this dynamic must be managed, as the dynamic cannot be avoided if one is to have their research grounded on their practice. Involving former clients was an unorthodox decision, but fundamental to guarantee the number of participants, to allow more voices to be heard and more importantly, to assure practitioner–researchers are not excluded from the process of research. In addition, the dynamic added a level of protection to participants with the guarantee that participating in research would not reduce their already limited access to professional services. Finally, faculty presented concerns about the handling of legal material from the moment of research conceptualisation, throughout the development of the research. Allowing access to legal material is highly controlled in some jurisdictions, such as Family law (Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia, 2021), and there was doubt regarding Migration law. I wanted to allow participants to bring documents and share them during the interviews to aid their memory regarding certain details of their experiences in their relationships and visa application, but faculty questioned the legal and ethical boundaries of my decision. If women were to bring documents with them, they had to keep these documents private, and as the researcher, I should maintain anonymity, use the documents fairly, and prevent legal consequences to myself and especially to the participants. The question “11.2 – Use of participant’s material provided for other purposes” was answered: It will be explained to all participants that no information will be collected outside the interview moment and no one else will receive identifiable information . . . If women want to, they will be welcome to bring documents to aid their memory but no document is requested and they can take away the documents they brought with them (if any) instead of leaving them with the researcher. Finally, the [Psychology] code of ethics also regulates the use of material provided by women: A.5.5. Psychologists use information collected about a client for a purpose other than the primary purpose of collection only: (a) with the consent of that client; (b) if the information is de-identified and used in the course of duly approved research; or (c) when the use is required or authorised by or under law. (Australian Psychological Society, 2018, p. 15) Half of the participants read documents to the researcher including immigration letters and reports, to illustrate their points during the interviews. Participants’
Practitioner–researchers and ethical reflexivity 63 rights to review or edit their contribution were also fundamental to reinforce the “informed consent” aspect of this research and create the possibility to withdraw the reading of any document considered inappropriate. No one withdrew the reading of documents and only one participant requested the removal of select information from the interview. The university approved the ethics application without extra requirements and faster than the expected timeframe (Approval No. 2016001732). While the whole ethics application demands reflexivity, the questions around individual benefits, multiple roles, and use of external material were particularly relevant to the ongoing challenges inherent to the research project. During the research, the faculty’s apprehension remained about the researcher’s rights to quote sponsored women’s legal documents. Numerous times one of the supervisors would question if the document readings should be removed from the data analysis. Rather than presenting the concern as coming from individual supervisors’ scepticism towards research ethics, I argue that wider questions should be raised regarding institutional cultures residing in particular faculties and how culture affects research students’ supervisory guidance (for better or worse).
Conclusion Not trusting in and perceiving the ethics process as “red tape” and an ongoing threat to stop the research is key to the ethics of criminological research, particularly when focused on vulnerable populations. Some of my research supervisors would advise against taking further concerns to the ethics committee, declaring in our meetings that they feared such actions would appear as if we were unprepared for ethical issues, and discouraging the introduction of less known approaches to ethical dilemmas, despite these approaches being fundamental for the development of the research. Such an attitude teaches PhD students to distrust ethics committees and to rely on more traditional research methodologies. For me, there could not be research without the possibility of interviewing former clients, or without an open door for editing transcripts. However, faculty would steer towards a different research structure based mostly on fears regarding the ethics committee. Other fears also contributed to this scenario as legal research in traditional universities in Australia is still overwhelmingly desktop/ case law based with legal professionals often not comfortable with qualitative, arguably obtrusive, criminology research. Finally, migration law is itself a marginal law in legal studies with many academics not as knowledgeable in this legal framework or in cross-cultural communication in research (Byrne & Gammeltoft-Hansen, 2020). Unfortunately, in avoiding genuine engagement with the discussion of ethics beyond the necessity to acquire “ethics committee approval”, faculty fostered an environment of suspicion where they were never comfortable with the decisions made in the ever-shifting landscape of qualitative research. The faculty’s worries revealed problems that are part of a larger context considering criminology, cross-cultural communication, legal research tradition, and suspicion surrounding ethics committees.
64 Ana Borges Jelinic There are many ethical dilemmas related to in-depth interviews, including determining quotes that can be published and how the inclusion (or exclusion) of select data effects the participants and those in their lives (Sabar & Ben-Yehoshua, 2017). Having a deep understanding of the participants’ social circumstances helped to pre-empt many potential requests including participants’ desire to edit content and use recordings and transcripts elsewhere. Previous research has identified researchers’ frustration with the ostensibly open process (Sabar & Ben-Yehoshua, 2017) and my faculty expressed fears regarding my approach. However, the approach attended well to the needs of the research. Allowing sponsored women to bring legal documents to the interviews also attended to the needs of this research but left supervisors and faculty members uneasy with the decision. Having both approaches approved by an ethics committee gave the researcher confidence to quote the participants, including quoting the women when reading aloud their immigration letters and reports, and the confidence to engage creatively with these documents, opening the possibility for the completion of similar work in future research. This is not to say that the ethics process was completely useful and without issues. There were repetitive questions in the ethics form, including questions about identifying and mitigating risks and informed consent. There were also questions related to the number of venues where I would conduct the research; a question with high chances of a changing answer when the research includes face-to-face interviewing and the researcher is willing to listen to the participants’ needs. In addition, the lack of trust in the ethics committees from supervisors and faculty stemmed from real experiences of difficulties to acquire research ethics approval that worsened by the tightening of rules in 2016. Here, an ethics rule that remained was that regardless of ethics approval, if there was something controversial about my research, like clients reading legal documents, any potential consequences would be my responsibility and my supervisors’ – not the ethics committee’s responsibility. Adorjan and Ricciardelli (2016) have alerted to the uniqueness of the experience of researchers in criminology and the ongoing reflection on ethics required beyond the approval by an ethics committee. Even the national guidelines in Australia have acknowledged this uniqueness in their 2018 review (NHMRC, 2018), emphasising the demonstration of ethics throughout the development of the project. A broader approach to ethics committees is welcome and should come alongside ongoing ethical reflexivity and faculty engagement in supporting the tackling of ethical dilemmas. My research required a space to acknowledge cross-cultural communication, to increase participants’ voices, and to reframe the position of practitioner–researcher as not risky but valuable. This is a space that engages with ethics from a feminist “ethics of care” perspective (Gilligan, 2015) and creates a proximity to the participants that can offer unique responses to ethical dilemmas that may otherwise go unanswered, for instance, in cases where institutions are not willing to engage with some of those questions. In an unexpected way, ethics committees may provide some protection for the research student from faculty’s anxieties that emerge
Practitioner–researchers and ethical reflexivity 65 from previous negative experiences with committees and their own insecurities in supervising and supporting non-traditional research. Such anxieties would still be better answered if the antagonism between faculty and ethics committees was abandoned in favour of a culture of ongoing ethical reflexivity.
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66 Ana Borges Jelinic Gilligan, C. (2014). Moral injury and the ethic of care: Reframing the conversation about differences. Journal of Social Philosophy, 45(1), 89–106. https://doi.org/10.1111/ josp.12050 Gilligan, C. (2015). The listening guide method of psychological inquiry. Qualitative Psychology, 2(1), 69–77. https://doi.org/10.1037/qup0000023 Israel, M. (2014). Research ethics and integrity for social scientists: Beyond regulatory compliance. SAGE. Israel, M., Allen, G., & Thomson, C. (2016). Australian research ethics governance: Plotting the demise of the adversarial culture. In W. C. van den Hoonaard & A. Hamilton (Eds.), The ethics rupture: Exploring alternatives to formal research-ethics review (pp. 285–316). University of Toronto Press. https://doi.org/10.3138/9781442616653-018 Moriña, A. (2020). When people matter: The ethics of qualitative research in the health and social sciences. Health & Social Care in the Community, 29(5), 1559–1565. https://doi. org/10.1111/hsc.13221 Mujcic, R., & Frijters, P. (2013). Still not allowed on the bus: It matters if you’re black or white! IZA – Institute for the study of Labour. https://ftp.iza.org/dp7300.pdf NHMRC. (2018). National statement on ethical conduct in human research 2007. Research Ethics Monthly. https://ahrecs.com/human-research-ethics/release-of-the-national-statement-on-ethical-conduct-in-human-research-2007-updated-2018-with-interview Sabar, G., & Ben-Yehoshua, N. S. (2017). ‘I’ll sue you if you publish my wife’s interview’: Ethical dilemmas in qualitative research based on life stories. Qualitative Research, 17(4), 408–423. https://doi.org/10.1177/1468794116679727 University of Queensland. (2021). 4.20.07 human research ethics. https://ppl.app.uq.edu. au/content/4.20.07-human-research-ethics#Procedures University of Queensland. (2022a). Ethics application. https://research.uq.edu.au/ research-support/ethics-integrity-and-compliance/human-ethics/ethics-application University of Queensland. (2022b). Criminology and criminal justice. https://social-science.uq.edu.au/undergraduate/criminology Walter, M. (2016). Indigenous peoples, research and ethics. In M. Adorjan & R. Ricciardelli (Eds.), Engaging with ethics in international criminological research (pp. 87–105). Routledge.
Cross-cultural and comparative research in Northern Ireland Insider, outsider, Other Anna Eriksson
Introduction This chapter signifies a trip back in time, revisiting my doctoral research in Northern Ireland. Since the years of my PhD, I have continued to research different responses to crime and approaches to justice delivery, in single jurisdictions as well as through national and international comparative research (Eriksson, 2016, 2021a, 2021b; Tubex & Eriksson, 2015; Pratt & Eriksson, 2013). I can say with confidence that the differences between the two communities in Northern Ireland mirrored the difference that can be found between countries in terms of culture, history, identity, and relationship/trust between state and community. Hence, the discussions regarding cross-cultural research in this chapter are relevant for internationally comparative work too, as well as research projects that traverse distinct cultural, social, and political differences, be that within different regions in a country or across areas of a large city. My research in Northern Ireland focused on community-based restorative justice projects that aimed to provide a non-violent alternative to community violence and conflict. There were two distinct projects: one in Catholic/Nationalist/ Republican areas called Community Restorative Justice Ireland (CRJI) and the other in Protestant/Unionist/Loyalist areas called Northern Ireland Alternatives (NIA, or the Alternatives for short). Both were established and led by political ex-prisoners and former combatants of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) and the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), respectively. The presence of these individuals caused much controversy within Northern Ireland and elsewhere. At the time of my data collection, CRJI existed in eight different Nationalist areas of Northern Ireland, and the Alternatives in five Unionist areas. These community-based restorative justice initiatives in Northern Ireland were initially designed to replace violent systems of informal “justice”, usually referred to as punishment violence, which were dispensed by paramilitary organisations in both Republican and Loyalist communities. Punishment violence involved shootings (in arms, legs, joints, or a combination) and/or beatings (using baseball bats which are sometimes studded with nails; iron bars, cudgels, hurley sticks) for the purpose of punishing offenders of crime and antisocial behaviour or as a means of ensuring discipline within paramilitary organisations. Measures like warnings, DOI:10.4324/9781003241515-6
68 Anna Eriksson curfews, and exclusions from the community were also common (Bell, 1996; Feenan, 2002; Hamill, 2002; Knox & Monaghan, 2002; Jarman, 2004). These “policing” activities were undertaken by Republican and Loyalist paramilitary groups in the working-class communities in which they lived and operated. The practices had their origin in the Troubles, beginning in the early 1970s, when the police were engaged in fighting insurgents and consequently paid less attention to “ordinary” crime. Additionally, the police were seen as an illegitimate force in Republican communities and as such were denied access to these areas. Practices of punishment violence as means of local community control were supposed to end with the paramilitary ceasefires and the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. However, by the early 2000s, it was clear that punishment violence was continuing and even increasing, in the vacuum of social control that often takes places during a political transition. As argued by McEvoy (2003), the continuation of such informal systems of “policing” was best viewed as, A complex interplay between the contested legitimacy of state policing (particularly in Republican areas); a reliance upon and demand for paramilitary retribution by local communities; the organisational capacity and self-image of the paramilitary groups as “protectors” of their communities; and the emergence of groups of alienated young antisocial men who viewed punishment violence as an occupational hazard of their lifestyles and in some instances, as a badge of honour. (p. 322) Ongoing sectarian attacks between the communities also led to a new cycle of degeneration in community relations, visibly and starkly demonstrated through physical division between the two communities throughout Belfast. This was the context in which the restorative justice projects were formed. I have written extensively about their inception, practice, and development over time elsewhere (Eriksson, 2008, 2009, 2015; McEvoy & Eriksson, 2006, 2007), but suffice to note here is that the since their formation in 1998, their practice had broadened considerably and when I conducted my research between 2004 and 2007, their work encompassed a range of community mediation, crime prevention with young people, victim support, and reintegration in cooperation with the Probation Service. Restorative justice work is no easy undertaking during the best of circumstances, but Northern Ireland at this point was still a deeply divided society with grievances stemming from centuries of political injustice remaining a significant contributor to violent action in local communities. The divided nature of society in Northern Ireland meant that terms such as Catholic/Protestant, Nationalist/Unionist, and Republican/Loyalist were deployed in an exclusionary and sectarian fashion. These terms noted cultural belonging and were, and continue to be, strongly tied to questions about national identity and the relationship between community and state (Groff & Smoker, 1996). The cultural difference between the two communities was indicated by a range of “conceptual boundary markers” including
Cross-cultural and comparative research in Northern Ireland 69 flags, painted curb stones, songs, and the so-called peace walls that formed part of an ingrained communal segregation (Shirlow & Murtagh, 2006). And the fact that the initiators of the two restorative justice projects were former combatants and political ex-prisoners served to fan the flames of controversy within, between, and beyond the local communities. The research included unique access to the projects and interviews with all practitioners in Republican and Loyalist communities, as well as samples of volunteers, victims, offenders, and families who had participated in the projects. This style of embedded ethnography with former combatants from both Loyalist and Republican backgrounds is rare (see Sluka, 1989) and provided a useful insight into the role that such individuals can play in post-conflict contexts. Interviews and focus groups were used, totalling 62 participants. Statutory agencies and local politicians were also interviewed and included the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), the Probation Board, the Housing Executive (NIHE), the Social and Democratic Labour Party (SDLP), Sínn Féin, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), and the Progressive Unionist Party (PUP). The quantitative data collected included over 1,000 cases from four of the offices in Republican west Belfast, covering the period between 2002 and 2006. The analysis of these focused on the number and nature of participants in cases; number of hours spent dealing with each case; what processes and outcomes each case entailed; who had referred the case to the organisation; which outside agencies were involved, both as a point of referral and as part of outcome agreements; and any follow-up information that was included. The research on community-based restorative justice in Northern Ireland was not planned as a cross-cultural or comparative project. Such comparison was resisted by both sides, a reflection of the divided nature of this society. While never engaging in an explicit comparative approach, a cross-cultural lens could not be avoided. Such an approach emerged as a useful and even necessary way forward, considering the tension between the two communities and the fact that their identity and relationship with the state had emerged through ideological and armed conflict. Northern Ireland was constructed on contested narratives. If I had focused on only one of these communities/groups, I risked misunderstanding or misrepresenting the complex dynamics that impacted the delivery and experience of both formal and informal justice in the jurisdiction. There is one specific theme that I will focus on in this chapter, which relates to both the status of the researcher (insider, outsider, Other) and the relationship between the two cultures that formed part of the research. The status of the researcher as insider–outsider is well covered in the qualitative research literature, but when the research takes place in a society where two (or more) groups are actively constructing each other as Other, this inevitably impacts the entire research process. Othering in this context is when a group (or person) defines another as a threat to self and identity. The Other is an enemy that is qualitatively different and usually constructed as inferior to “us” (Bauman, 1989). There are often clear physical and/or symbolic boundaries between “us” and “them”, which in Northern Ireland took the form of painted curb stones, flags (Irish and
70 Anna Eriksson British), and the stark and intimidating peace walls. The status as Other can also be marked by language, names, and dress code. Othering, as a process, reflects such boundary production “as an underlying cultural process which maintains (and reproduces) such boundaries” (Guttormsen, 2018, p. 314). A proposition that will be explored in this chapter is that as a researcher, you can be “tainted” by having spent time in the other community. The otherness can rub off and, arguably, supersede any existing status of insider or outsider. I will provide some practical examples of the ethical dilemmas that can occur as a result and consider its impact on the research process. The point is that cross-cultural research in a divided society comes at a cost that needs to be explicitly recognised and carefully handled, and where the status of the researcher can be a fluid identity, impacted by both external and internal factors. Importantly, divided societies that are underpinned by constructions of Otherness are not confined to geographical areas like Northern Ireland but can also be found in so-called societies of captives, for example, prisons and other institutions of punishment (Sykes, 2007). As someone who conducts ethnographic and qualitative research in prisons across jurisdictions, and research that includes both prisoners and staff, I find these discussions around how the status and position of the researcher are navigated against the backdrop of processes of Othering highly relevant. I hope that the reader will find insights that they can apply to their own area of cross-cultural research.
Insider–outsider–Other: navigating a shifting boundary The debates around being an insider or outsider when conducting ethnographic research are largely focused on subjectivity/objectivity, neutrality, trust, and gaining access (Mullings, 1999). There are of course strengths and weaknesses in either approach, which is true for all research methods, and a researcher cannot necessarily choose if they want to be an insider or outsider for a particular research project; that status is one a researcher brings with them, which will impact on how access is provided and negotiated. However, this status can, and often does, change during the course of data collection in the field. An outsider might become more of an insider, or at least a trusted outsider (Bucerius, 2013) because of the familiarity and reduced threat that results from “hanging around” (Browne & McBride, 2015). But a trusted outsider might quickly become a distrusted outsider due to events during the fieldwork, and I will give an example of such an ethical challenge later. The line might also shift in the other direction, where the researcher develops what is referred to as over-rapport1 (O’Reilly, 2009). This is when the researcher becomes too involved in the community of study and loses their objectivity. Hence, insider–outsider is not a binary status but rather a fluid space impacted by a range of factors (Dwyer & Buckle, 2009). Such factors can be inherent to the researcher, such as age, gender, ethnicity, and background. Others are external and arise during the research process and through events that impact the researched community. Importantly, these all interact, creating ethical dilemmas along the way.
Cross-cultural and comparative research in Northern Ireland 71 Developing an insider status in any part of Northern Ireland would be impossible for someone like me, since being an insider researcher means that you share the characteristics, role, identity, language, or experience under study with the participants (Dwyer & Buckle, 2009). For a local Northern Irish researcher, it might be possible, and it would allow them to use their own implicit knowledge of that culture. However, this insider knowledge can set the standard for what one studies and how (Pena, 2007), which can also be a weakness due to an inherent bias. Possible downsides of being an insider researcher also include the risk that one might over-empathise; difficulty separating one’s own experiences from the participants; emphasising shared features in the analysis and losing focus on those which separate; presumed knowledge so one might miss to ask certain questions and fail to explore individual experiences of participants (Dwyer & Buckle, 2009, p. 58). In some groups or communities, such insider status might act as a block – participants do not feel comfortable revealing personal information to someone they “know”, unsure about how it might impact their future status in the group. This might be a particular pertinent concern when researching politically sensitive topics. The insider role, then, not only gives researcher a certain amount of legitimacy but can also carry stigma (Adler & Adler, 1987), and when engaging in cross-cultural research, researchers need to be aware of their own status as insider or outsider, since each status raises its own ethical challenges. In a divided society underpinned by Othering, cross-cultural research by local researchers might be near impossible and/or inadvisable due to the process of taint mentioned earlier. Hence, most qualitative research in divided societies tends to be carried out by a member of one of the communities, and rarely occurs across both. The insider–outsider status is largely free of moral value judgement; it is an identity that one holds while conducting the research, linked to one’s professional researcher self; it does not become a permanent identity that is all encompassing. It is a professional identity one can step in and out of depending on where one physically is (research site in a local community, or at home having dinner after work, for example). Being an Other, however, comes with a moral judgement, a qualitative measure of worthiness and an assessment of risk. Moreover, Otherness is “sticky”, it taints the overall identity in the eyes of the one making that judgement, whereas the insider–outsider status is fluent, malleable, and one which the researcher can physically, socially, and professionally leave behind. For the research discussed in this chapter, I started out as an outsider in relation to both communities in Northern Ireland. I am a Swedish national, having completed my undergraduate studies in Australia, and a master’s degree at Cambridge, England. My accent spanned all those places, making my nationality and personality a bit fuzzy, and clearly signalling me as an outsider. The challenge was to develop sufficient trust in both communities to allow for access and data collection. However, thanks to not being Irish, English, or Northern Irish, I was generally perceived as non-threatening, which allowed access to be negotiated in both communities, a rare occurrence in a divided society. The status of “trusted outsider” was what I aimed for, and I would argue that when conducting cross-cultural research, particularly in situations when processes of Othering are
72 Anna Eriksson underpinning community/group relations and interactions, a trusted outsider status might be preferable.
Gatekeepers and gaining access: becoming a trusted outsider Gatekeepers are people with the power to grant access to researchers for a particular population or location. Gatekeeping can be part of a formal process of applying for access via an ethics application directly to that organisation, for example, when researching organisations such as prisons and police. When researching less formal groups or organisations, such as the homeless, veterans, or victims of crime, gatekeepers are often community- or not-for-profit organisations. When researching community-based restorative justice in Northern Ireland, the gatekeepers were former members of paramilitary organisations and political ex-prisoners. There was no formal ethics application to fill out here (apart from the one to the University of course), and gaining access required first to be introduced by a known and trusted person, in this case my supervisor, and second, a meeting with the leaders of each community organisation. Then, it was a daily exercise in maintaining trust and rapport, which in my experience was impossible without encountering some tricky ethical dilemmas along the way. My supervisor, Professor Kieran McEvoy, had been part of the consultation process that set up the projects in Republican communities, and he was a trusted researcher in these areas (McEvoy & Mika, 2001, 2002). His Catholic status also marked him as more of an insider in these communities. However, precisely because of these reasons, he did not carry the same legitimacy in relation to projects in Loyalist communities. Neither did I, since I had started my research in Republican communities and spent 6 months collecting data on their practice. The initial outsider status that had made me relatively neutral, albeit with a strange accent, had now been “tainted” by my time in “enemy territory”, which made the process of negotiating access to these projects a much more delicate operation. But after months of trust building, of starting by interviewing the gatekeepers who then gave their “she is ok” approval to the next interviewee, access was built over time to include all their projects. With politically sensitive organisations such as these, or with illegal or clandestine organisations and groups who are often the subject of criminological research, access is then further negotiated each day, where trust and rapport are built and extended incrementally (Lee, 1993). Access can also be withdrawn if the researcher is seen as “suspect”. While conducting cross-cultural research in a divided society, on practices by former paramilitaries, this was a daily balance. The manager of Alternatives, the restorative justice projects in Loyalist communities, made it very clear that they did not want to be compared in any way to the projects in Republican communities; that they were independent, and their practice had developed independently from Republican initiatives, growing organically based on particular and unique needs in Loyalist areas. Hence, a cross-cultural approach to research was suitable here, whereas a distinct comparative approach would have closed access to at least one if not both communities.
Cross-cultural and comparative research in Northern Ireland 73
Never talk politics or religion. Or sport As part of the gradual trust building in Republican communities, I signed up to do a restorative justice volunteer training programme that was offered to local community members there. The aims were to better understand this particular application of restorative justice, get to know new volunteers, as well as getting to know the key workers and volunteers who ran the programme who I wanted to interview as part of my research. This approach is often referred to as “hanging out”, and it has been argued that this might be a particularly important approach in politically sensitive research environments (Browne & McBride, 2015). As part of hanging out, I did not actively collect any data. Rather, this was all background, building my understanding, which then helped formulate interview questions. But I was still a researcher while there, and that was important both for me and the other people in the room to remember. It was a fine line between outsider and trusted outsider and one that was walked all the time. The main aim was to not be seen as Other, because that would quickly close down access. But I almost managed to put myself in that category anyway, by responding a certain way when faced with a particular ethical dilemma in the field. This happened during a smoking break, when I was standing outside the project office in west Belfast with the other volunteer trainees, enjoying a coffee and a cigarette.2 In Northern Ireland, sensitive topics naturally included politics and religion but could also be extended to include sports, music, which school you went to, where you worked, which pub you drank in, and probably a whole range of other topics that as an outsider, I might have missed or been spared. Asking questions about these things is part of what is referred to as “telling” in Northern Ireland (Shirlow & Murtagh, 2006) – a strategy used by people to tell where other people are from, which community, for the purpose of assessing them as insiders, outsiders, or Others. The ethical dilemma that resulted as part of the conversation during the smoking break was due to me walking straight into that verbal trap. I was asked if Sweden was a Catholic or a Protestant country. I knew that telling the truth, that Sweden was indeed a Protestant country, might not be the wisest move while standing outside the office run by former IRA members and community volunteers who had saw the Protestant community as the enemy. But I knew that not telling the truth could seriously damage the trust I had built up over those initial weeks and could mean the end of my access to these restorative justice projects. So I said that yes, Sweden was a Protestant country, but Lutheran, a different version of what existed in Northern Ireland. The silence that followed was deafening. And for the next 3 weeks, no one talked to me during smoking breaks, and I was not included in conversations during the training. I told the man who led the training, himself a former combatant and political ex-prisoner, about what had happened. He laughed out loud and wished me good luck with the rest of the training, with a big smile on his face. So, I persisted, and after those 3 weeks, there was another conversation during the smoking break, this one about music in general, and ABBA in particular. Here, my expertise was welcomed, and my identity as
74 Anna Eriksson Swedish, and as neutral, finally superseded that of a suspected potential Protestant person. I was back “in” and could work on further developing trust and rapport. I knew enough not to talk politics, and by now I had learned the hard way to not talk about religion. But apparently casual chats about sport could also turn into a minefield of allegiance which directly impacts the researcher’s status. Celtic or Rangers,3 who really cares. A lot of people, it turned out. Sport as a cultural representation and expression of identity politics is not unique to Northern Ireland (Craith, 2003), but the intensity of its application was certainly different from what I had experienced elsewhere. And when this question was asked, it was never really about sport, but a way of gauging if you were an insider, outsider, or Other. At the time of my fieldwork, there was a Swedish player who was playing for Celtic. And this highly specialist knowledge became my way to navigate the politically charged terrain when asked which football team I supported. My answer was “I have no idea about football. I only know that Henrik Larsson is playing for Celtic, so it is nice that the Scots are getting some help from some proper Swedes to show them how the game is played”. This response placed me firmly in the category of “outsider”, and quite possibly an idiot, but that was a safe outcome that did not threaten me, the person who asked the question, or my continued research access.
The words we speak: language, words, and accents That my accent placed me as a foreigner and outsider has now been made clear. However, how one says certain words matters and can trigger ethical challenges around access, trust, and safety in the field. The words themselves matter too. In a divided society like Northern Ireland, some words or names differ between communities, clearly signalling one’s cultural tribe. For example, if the decadeslong armed conflict in Northern Ireland is referred to as “the Troubles” or “the War”, the latter signalling a belonging to a Republican narrative and identity construction, the former a Loyalist (or foreign) one. The city of Derry if you are a Catholic; Londonderry if you are a Protestant. And of course, the old chestnut of paramilitaries as “freedom fighter” or “terrorist”, depending on which Irish/ Northern Irish/British politician was talking; or “criminal” if you were Margaret Thatcher. These words matter, and as someone doing ethnographic research in such communities, one needs to be aware of these distinctions before starting fieldwork. If new to the field of study, which is someone else’s lived reality, one needs to read up on the social, cultural, and political history of the place, the underpinnings that inform today’s practice. This is not just relevant for a place like Northern Ireland, but for all cross-cultural research, since knowing or not knowing the different uses of terms like these, signals status as insider, outsider, or Other. Similar situations can occur during prison research, where staff and prisoners use different terminologies, and how researchers use terms which send strong signals. If not sure, then using a much more natural term, or clearly declaring one’s ignorance, might be the best bet, since pretending to be someone that you are not, in a society that
Cross-cultural and comparative research in Northern Ireland 75 spends a lot of time “telling” other people, is not an effective or ethical approach. Again, authenticity goes a long way.
Ethical dilemmas when interviewing police, politicians, and former paramilitaries in a divided society In a place where crime control and identity are intensely politicised, triangulation of data is important (Flick, 2018). I designed the research to include data collection from a range of sources, using different methods, to as far as possible ensure that the results were valid. Having former paramilitaries, police, politicians, and community volunteers talk about the same restorative justice initiatives provided a rich data set from which an in-depth understanding of its application and impact could be analysed. The insider–outsider–Other role looked somewhat different in relation to interviews with police and politicians. Data collection here consisted of semi-structured interviews and not the more ethnographic methods of “hanging out” that I had employed in Republican and Loyalist communities. The change in focus meant a re-evaluation of my positionality (Mullings, 1999) in relation to these groups. I chose to emphasise a different set of attributes to gain access and build trust. For those who valued higher education, I would emphasise that I had studied at Cambridge. For those who proudly emphasised their working-class background, I would talk about my previous work as a horse groom and waitress. All true, but by choosing what I disclosed, when, and to whom, I made conscious decisions as to my positionality as a researcher (Mullings, 1999). This might seem cold and calculated, even deceitful. Even though these are well-recognised ethnographic methods, every choice is an ethical challenge and should not be taken lightly. It is important to be aware of their impact, on the group one is wanting to get access to, for oneself, and for maintaining access to the groups to which one already has gained access. An example of an ethical dilemma that could occur would be if I was seen to spend too much time talking to police, or Loyalist/Protestant politicians; then my access to Republican communities could be withdrawn. I was aware of these dynamics and tried to be open about who I talked to and why, while always clarifying my neutrality in relation to any opinions expressed by interviewees and my role as a researcher. Another relevant “tale from the field” helps illustrate this ongoing positionality and the ethical challenges that arose while conducting cross-cultural research in a society divided by decades of violent conflict. My neutrality as a researcher and my status as trusted outsider were very much challenged when I took a job as a role-player at the Police Academy, and for the last 2 years of my PhD, I worked in two hostels run by the De Paul4 organisation, one for homeless families and one for homeless alcoholics in Belfast.5 Working as a role-player at the Academy made it easier to get access to police for interviews, having already been “vetted and approved” as it were. But while at the Police College, I was very mindful of not telling them the extent of my research, especially in relation to the project in Republican communities. My research there meant I spent a lot of time with
76 Anna Eriksson people who were intensely disliked (nice word for what they called them) by the police due to the killing of police by IRA paramilitaries during the Troubles. The former political prisoners who ran the restorative programmes in Republican communities would have been similarly unimpressed by this seemingly close association with the Police Service Northern Ireland, so I was equally mindful when there to not talk about my job with their Other. As an ethically complicated ground to navigate, my status as insider–outsider– Other was a constant negotiation. My status also highlighted how, in the politically sensitive environment that was Northern Ireland, I was always “on” as a researcher, and my non-researcher life impacted directly my researcher role. I do believe that my identity as Swedish helped a lot here, as did my accent. I was seen as relatively neutral, which made me able to conduct cross-cultural research that someone who had been seen as Irish or British might not have been able. When navigating the ethical dilemmas that come with positionality in crosscultural research, it is important to always bring one’s authentic self. Just as one does not tell every new person one meets everything there is to know about oneself, one chooses, as far as possible, what to show and tell when conducting research in the field. But one can still be their authentic self for what one shows, and this I believe is central to ethical research. As has become clear from the examples mentioned earlier, when conducting research across different communities, especially those divided by conflict and violence, one is never exempt from the daily rituals of “telling”, no matter how neutral, objective, and impartial one tries to be as a professional researcher. We all bring a range of “tells” with us, whether we like it or not. Hence, in a community where one’s safety is dependent on quickly and accurately reading other people, prepare to be an open book, at least one authentic chapter at a time.
Conclusion Objectivity is the hallmark of research methodology and as a qualitative researcher, one needs to be tuned in to the experiences and meanings of the group/community one is researching, while simultaneously being aware of one’s own biases and preconceptions which might influence the very thing one is trying to understand and study (Maykut & Morehouse, 1994; Palermo, 2017). However, objectivity is rarely a straightforward concept in qualitative research, which makes it even more important that researchers pay attention to the things that will inevitably impact it. As Rose (1985, p. 77) argued “there is no neutrality. There is only greater awareness of one’s biases”. This balancing act of neutrality impacts the entire research process including data collection, analysis, discussion of results, and dissemination, and speaks to the fluid nature of the insider–(trusted outsider)– outsider–Other spectrum. Cross-cultural research in a divided society is no easy undertaking, and sometimes, despite our own best efforts to approach a situation objectively and design our research instruments with a clear awareness of our potential biases, when we are working in settings that also involve processes of Othering, objectivity cannot
Cross-cultural and comparative research in Northern Ireland 77 be assumed. Unless this potential transfer of “taint” is explicitly recognised and managed, the validity of the entire research project can be severely compromised. While being an insider or outsider, or trusted outsider in this situation, does not make one a better or worse researcher, it will have different impacts which one needs to be explicitly aware of. Then, one will hopefully have a plan in place, or develop one very quickly, for those unexpected ethical dilemmas that will inevitably occur due to the constant balance of researcher status throughout the research process. As Dwyer and Buckle (2009) argue, “the core ingredient is not insider or outsider status but an ability to be open, authentic, honest, deeply interested in the experiences of one’s research participants, and committed to accurately and adequately representing their experiences” (p. 59). However, with cross-cultural research, and particularly when a comparative element is included, the research process itself can become a threat to participants, creating another ethical dilemma. The people I have interviewed as part of my different research projects over the years – former paramilitaries, practitioners of community-based restorative justice, police, prisoners, and prison staff – all had a direct and daily involvement in the formal and informal responses to crime and conflict in their community. And they all engaged in a daily process where their own identity and sense of safety were shaped by the daily interactions with the Other. Groups who engage in Othering do not want to be compared. The Other is constructed as morally and qualitatively inferior, and comparative research can be perceived as a threat to the carefully constructed identity of each group, as well as safety in real terms. Such politics always play a role in the construction of and response to crime and conflict, but in a divided society, it permeates all aspects of initiatives aimed at addressing crime, conflict, and disorder. This impacts not only data collection but, perhaps more importantly, dissemination of findings. Research in this space then becomes not only an ethical but also an inherently political project. But as challenging as cross-cultural research might be, I hope this chapter has laid bare part of the messy reality that can take place during qualitative fieldwork, with the aim to recognising both the challenges with cross-cultural research, while clearly conveying the privilege it is to be allowed to conduct it.
Notes 1 This phenomenon has traditionally been referred to as “going native”, but its roots in colonialism and its derogatory connotations have led to different terms being used to describe this process of being overly immersed in one’s research community and thereby losing one’s objectivity, which in turns means that the research findings lose its credibility (O’Reilly, 2009). 2 I have since quit smoking, which is of course excellent for my health and personal finances. But it was a great research tool, and many of the most important conversations during fieldwork happened during smoking breaks, not just in Belfast but in many prisons, community centres, and lunch breaks with criminal justice officials. 3 Scottish football teams with Catholic and Protestant cultural belongings. 4 In most other places around the world, the organisation is called St Vincent de Pauls, but due to the Catholic connotations of that name, the decision had been made to adapt it somewhat in Northern Ireland to make residents from both communities feel safe and
78 Anna Eriksson welcomed. This also acts as an illustration of how deep the Othering processes ran in Northern Ireland and its widespread impact. 5 I had to pay my rent and bills, and I had no desire to work in the restaurant business again, which I had done in my early twenties. The role-playing job included being given a scenario as either victim or offender across a range of situations, and then interacting with the recruits who had to deal with me in that role. I very much enjoyed that, not sure if the recruits did!
References Adler, P. A., & Adler P. (1987). Membership roles in field research. SAGE. Bauman, Z. (1989). Modernity and the holocaust. Cornell University Press. Bell, C. (1996). Alternative justice in Ireland. In N. Dawson, D. Greer, & P. Ingram (Eds.), One hundred and fifty years of Irish law. Legal Publications (NI), Sweet & Maxwell. Browne, B. C., & McBride, R. S. (2015). Politically sensitive encounters: Ethnography, access, and the benefits of “hanging out”. Qualitative Sociology Review, 11(1), 34–48. Bucerius, S. M. (2013). Becoming a “trusted outsider”: Gender, ethnicity, and equality in ethnographic research. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 42(6), 690–721. Craith, M. N. (2003). Culture and identity politics in Northern Ireland. Springer. Dwyer, S. C., & Buckle, J. L. (2009). The space between: On being an insider-outsider in qualitative research. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 54–63. Eriksson, A. (2008). Challenging cultures of violence through community restorative justice in Northern Ireland. Sociology of Crime, Law and Deviance, (11), 231–260. Eriksson, A. (2009). Justice in transition: Community restorative justice in Northern Ireland. Routledge. Eriksson, A. (2015). Restorative justice in the Northern Ireland transition. In A. M. McAlinden & C. Dwyer (Eds.), Criminal justice in transition: The Northern Ireland context. Hart Publishing. Eriksson, A. (Ed.). (2016). Punishing the other: The social production of immorality revisited. Routledge. Eriksson, A. (2021a). Rethinking Australia’s approach to prisoner rehabilitation. In A. Scott & R. Campbell (Eds.), The Nordic edge: Policy possibilities for Australia (pp. 216–238). Melbourne University Press. Eriksson, A. (2021b). The taint of the other: Prison work as ‘dirty work’ in Australia. Punishment & Society, 1–19. Online First. https://doi.org/10.1177/14624745211047534 Feenan, D. (2002). Justice in conflict: Paramilitary punishment in Ireland (north). International Journal of the Sociology of Law, 30, 151–172. Flick, U. (2018). Triangulation in data collection. In U. Flick (Ed.), The sage handbook of qualitative data collection (pp. 527–544). SAGE. Groff, Linda, & Paul Smoker. (1996). Spirituality, religion, culture, and peace: Exploring the foundations for inner-outer peace in the twenty-first century. International Journal of Peace Studies, 1(1), 57–113. Guttormsen, D. S. A. (2018). Advancing otherness and othering of the cultural other during “intercultural encounters” in cross-cultural management research. International Studies of Management & Organization, 48(3), 314–332. Hamill, H. (2002). Victims of paramilitary punishments attacks in Belfast. In C. Hoyle, R. Young & Centre for Criminological Research, University of Oxford (Eds.), New visions of crime victims (pp. 49–70). Hart Publishing.
Cross-cultural and comparative research in Northern Ireland 79 Jarman, N. (2004). From war to peace? Changing patterns of violence in Northern Ireland, 1990–2003. Terrorism and Political Violence, 16(3), 420–438. Knox, C., & Monaghan, R. (2002). Informal justice in divided societies: Northern Ireland and South Africa. Palgrave Macmillan. Lee, M. R. (1993). Doing research on sensitive topics. SAGE. Maykut, P., & Morehouse, R. (1994). Beginning qualitative researchers: A philosophical and practical guide. Falmer. McEvoy, K. (2003). Beyond the metaphor: Political violence, human rights, and ‘new’ peacemaking criminology. Theoretical Criminology, 7(3), 319–346. McEvoy, K., & Eriksson, A. (2006). Restorative justice in transition: Ownership, leadership and ‘bottom-up’ human rights. In D. Sullivan & L. Tifft (Eds.), The handbook of restorative justice: Global perspectives (pp. 321–336). Routledge. McEvoy, K., & Eriksson, A. (2007). Who owns justice? community, state and the Northern Ireland transition. In J. Shapland (Ed.), Justice, community and civil society: A contested terrain across Europe. Willan Publishing. McEvoy, K., & Mika, H. (2001). Punishment, politics and praxis: Restorative justice and non-violent alternatives to paramilitary punishment. Policing and Society, 11(1), 359–382. McEvoy, K., & Mika, H. (2002). Restorative justice and the critique of informalism in Northern Ireland. British Journal of Criminology, 43(3), 534–563. Mullings, B. (1999). Insider or outsider, both or neither: Some dilemmas of interviewing in a cross-cultural setting. Geoforum, 30, 337–350. O’Reilly, K. (2009). Going ‘native’. In Key concepts in ethnography (pp. 88–92). SAGE. Palermo, C. (2017). Bali in Brazil: Perceptions of ‘otherness’ by the ‘other.’ Theatre, Dance and Performance Training, 8(3), 268–282. Pena, E. D. (2007). Lost in translation: Methodological considerations in cross-cultural research. Child Development, 78(4), 1255–1264. Pratt, J., & Eriksson, A. (2013). Contrasts in punishment: Explaining Anglophone excess and Nordic exceptionalism. Routledge. Rose, P. (1985). Writing on women: Essays in a renaissance. Wesleyan University Press. Shirlow, P., & Murtagh, B. (2006). Belfast: Segregation, violence and the city. Pluto. Sluka, J. A. (1989). Hearts and minds, water and fish: Support for the IRA and the INLA in a Northern Irish ghetto. Contemporary Ethnographic Studies, 34. Sykes, G. M. (2007). The society of captives: A study of a maximum security prison. Princeton University Press. Tubex, H., & Eriksson, A. (Eds.). (2015). The aims and purposes of prison research. The International Journal of Crime, Justice and Social Democracy, 4(1).
Prison officer training Transient identity during immersive ethnography Helen Arnold and Rosemary Ricciardelli
Introduction Much prison research remains focused on the experiences and perceptions of prisoners rather than correctional officers. For both of us, while certainly not to the exclusion of prisoners, our current primary research interest is in the work of prison uniformed staff, and driven by concern for staff welfare and well-being, as well as their performance and potential to have a positive impact on the lives of prisoners and achievement of rehabilitative goals. When the respective opportunity presented, nearly two decades apart and in two different countries, to become “grounded” in the lived reality of newly recruited officers and become immersed in the initial training programme to better understand the demands and requirements of the prison officer role, we both grasped it. For one of us, the setting was the Prison Service for England and Wales (PSEW) and for the other Correctional Services Canada (CSC, the federal correctional organisation in the country). Initially, we both approached our research task as one of reviewing new entrant prison/correctional officer training and began with an intention to only observe segments of the course. The aim was to develop an understanding of the core skills and competencies sought, and to be developed, when recruiting and training new prison officers. However, unusually (and somewhat unexpectedly), with the cooperation, permission, and endorsement of senior managers within the respective organisations, formal access for full participation and completion of the entire training programme was arranged. This level of access offered the chance not just to see, or be told, what it might be like to become a prison officer but to feel it and experience it first hand, and the potential to challenge (or corroborate) official conceptualisations of training and not rely on either the organisational speak of managers and trainers or the individual biases of current and retrospective interpretations. In terms of Arnold’s research, while the scope of the study had expanded, and in hindsight carried rather complex ethical predicaments, any further ethical questions were not asked, and the original and somewhat implied ethical permission remained. Given the contemporary climate where any prison research is subjected to rigorous ethical scrutiny before ethical approval is granted, it is quite astonishing that in this case no separate formal application was made to either a university DOI: 10.4324/9781003241515-7
Prison officer training 81 or a PSEW ethics board. Her application (for ESRC collaborative funding) simply stated that the research would be bound by the ethical codes governing research within PSEW and criminological research in general. Since Arnold’s research was funded by PSEW, it came with the benefit of a dedicated Steering Group of relevant PSEW personnel whose terms of reference were to provide oversight and guidance. It was from within this group that the proposal for full participation in the new entrant prison officer training programme came, and all members agreed on its value. Some discussions were had concerning disclosure to staff and prisoners and the degree of participation (including whether she should be in uniform during the periods of training and be assessed to the extent of the actual recruits). While no specific ethical issues were raised regarding this element of her study, there was palpable concern and some considerable discussion about the legal implications of taking part in Control and Restraint (C&R) training sessions given the possibility of injury and issues of liability. In contrast, it was agreed from the outset that Ricciardelli would engage in all components of training, including firearms, under the supervision of trainers who were responsible for ensuring she adhered to all safety protocols. She discussed at length with the director of the training academy at Correctional Services Canada what completing the training would entail and consulted with ethics about necessary processes, recognising the study was unique in that there would be no direct study participants. Despite the significant temporal and geographical distance, the projects were independent but united in that we were researchers ready to embark on correctional officer training and all that the processes entailed – our experiences were strikingly similar. The central research objective, across both our studies, was consistent: we strove to gain an in-depth understanding of the core skills, abilities, qualities, and competencies the prison services required of their prison officers, and to explore the extent to which these developed through the content and delivery of the training modules and in-person processes. Our additional aims were to explore what, and how, new recruits are taught about what it means to be a prison officer, and what values were imparted to new recruits through the process of their initial training. Through full participation and extensive observation, we hoped to gain a deeper understanding and a more meaningful conception of the work of prison officers and to acquire a greater familiarity with the nature of their role and the “how” of performance. Further, we approached our “training” in a consistent manner, relying on appreciative inquiry (Elliott, 1999; Liebling et al., 2001; Ricciardelli, 2022a) meaning that we first tried to understand the intentions, rationales, and positionality of the respective service that underpinned the training. From this appreciative stance came a more critical standpoint as we became increasingly aware of the processes, and developed the required skills, according to the training, for working as a prison/correctional officer. What was initially a small component of our respective research studies evolved into a self-contained, preliminary study in its own right; one that was consuming, immersive, and riddled with ethical realities – both challenges and nuanced positionalities – that we needed to negotiate. To this end, the original focus became
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imbued with more meaning, the implications grew, and the aims and objectives expanded. In the current chapter, we speak to the shared ethical realities of two immersive ethnographical studies, one conducted in the United Kingdom ending in 2002, and the other conducted in Canada with an initial completion in 2019. We discuss our experiences entering the field, where we gained trust and acceptance from fellow recruits and the trainers. We present how we navigated disclosure, which for Arnold was complicated by an in-prison component to the training course (where trainees undertook some of their training, in uniform, in the prison they had applied to work as well as at the residential training college) where this principle was less forthcoming. While Arnold was privileged by the authenticity and exposure to prisoners this experience offered, it added some ethical complexity. In comparison, Ricciardelli’s participation in initial training did not take her into a prison in a correctional officer uniform. We stress how we refrained from “going native” and instead maintained a critical lens that offered distance from the push to succeed in the training programme and thus allowed for critical reflection on the processes we witnessed and in which we participated. We then reflect on how our identities were affected by our participation in the training programmes – the emotions we felt, how we changed, what we learned, and how we felt we were perceived. We conclude with some notes about leaving the field, detailing the periods of uncertainty and ambiguity that laced our experiences. With any experience, there are regrets and successes, and although we cannot unpack each, we recognise that our experiences shaped how we navigated our researcher role which was always embedded within the realities of being witness to and participating in the extended job interview of cohorts of recruits.
Background: the training courses In the United Kingdom in February 2002, Arnold participated in an 11-week Prison Officer Entry Level Training (POELT) course alongside a cohort of 47 other student officers. The course consisted of 5 “gap weeks” in a prison establishment (HMP Whitemoor; a high-security prison) as well as 6 weeks of training at a residential training college in Wakefield and full inclusion in the continuous assessment process carried out by tutors at the college and the training managers at the prison. The purpose of the in-prison weeks was for trainees to practise and contextualise the interpersonal and technical skills taught at the college by working alongside and accompanying residential and other operational officers in carrying out their duties (Arnold, 2008). Throughout the training course, trainees were appraised according to how specific learning outcomes had been achieved within their written work and practical demonstration of key skills (such as searching). Weekly performance progress reports were compiled by trainers who commented not only on knowledge and skills but attitude and behaviour within the prison and attentiveness, participation, punctuality, and enthusiasm while at the college. A final report, which concluded as to the level of competence shown by a prison officer, remarked on character, communications and relationships
Prison officer training 83 with others, knowledge base, decision-making, and effectiveness (Arnold, 2008). Arnold graduated on May 3, 2002, having successfully completed the course and passed each assessment. In 2019, in Canada, Ricciardelli participated in the three stages of the CSC Correctional Officer Training Program (CTP). The first stage was intensive and online, requiring four commitment weeks to cover the material and pass the associated tests. Stage two consisted of online assignments, each structured to drive home the lessons learned across stage one. The final stage saw Ricciardelli progress to the in-person component of training at the National Training Academy in Kingston, Ontario. Her cohort graduated from the 14-week training programme on September 11, 2019. The in-person component of CTP was organised around a series of over 50 tests where a score of 70 or over denotes a pass. Failure to achieve a score of 70 on a test results in a strike, remedial training if the strike was earned on firearms and retesting; if a recruit earns three strikes, or two on the sample element, they are released from the program. CSC may also release recruits if their actions are perceived to be in violation of the service’s values and ethics. The environment was stressful with testing, with being away from home – as a mid-career researcher with a family that includes four children – and with the possibility of being sent home. The POELT course in England and Wales was similarly stressful with periods away from home (as well as periods on prison landings dealing directly with prisoners – for most recruits for the first time) and the threat of failing the course and being “back-squadded” (“relegated” to a later incoming cohort) for failing the C&R component (even if this was through injury or illness). While there were regular written tests throughout the course, it was successful completion of the C&R training that was a non-negotiable condition of being a prison officer. It was thus this component of the course which induced much angst and anxiety for the cohort (see Arnold, 2008 for a discussion of this element of training). The entire course placed great demands on time requiring almost 3 months of commitment, long days, few, and relatively short periods of time “off duty”, and significant distances to travel to the college and prison. Extended absence from home also challenged Arnold’s dedication to the task and resulted in some strain on personal relationships and fulfilment of home life responsibilities. The experience also shrunk her social and interpersonal world, and sphere of influence, to one dominated by “prison talk” and opportunities for relaxation and perspective narrowed significantly. In summary, the training experiences for both of us were laden with stress, not only due to our own competence and testing but also due to the ethical realities that accompany an immersive ethnography, to which we will now turn.
Participant observation Participant observation can be considered “the research technique par excellence of classic ethnography” (Davies et al., 2011, p. 351), a method that “stands at the centre of any ethnographic investigation” (Jupp, 1989, p. 57) as “the keystone of the claim to authenticity” (Pearson, 1993, p. ix). Participant observation is defined as “a
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form of observation in which the observer becomes a member of the group or a part of the situation he/she observes” (Sarantakos, 2005, p. 430). It involves “immersion in the life worlds and cultures under study by the researcher who will participate in and observe phenomenon so as to gain an understanding from an insider perspective” (Davies et al., 2011, p. 351). Observation of, and participation in, the social world and activities of those being studied, from within, in the natural setting of the subjects, yields critical insight and data that are close to the lived reality of participants and demonstrates a commitment to an appreciative and sensitising strategy for cognising how a group experiences and constructs their social sphere. In select cases, participant observation may be viewed as the beginning point of all other research (Douglas, 1972, 1976). Indeed, Hagan (2000, p. 212) argued that, for research to be targeted and impactful, “before one can design a survey or experiment, one must observe the subject of investigation sufficiently to know the proper areas to probe”. This was certainly the case for Arnold, for whom participant observation of the training was the starting point for her doctoral research, a preliminary exercise with the primary aim to glean “official” perspectives on what is valued within the prison officer role. The participant observation component of her much broader study was hugely (and much more than anticipated) valuable in the design and construction of subsequent interview schedules and focus group protocols. For Ricciardelli, the participant observation tied to the ethnographic work came later, after years of experience doing correctional research that included semi-ethnographic studies in prisons, with prisoners and staff, and outside of prisons, with parole officers and parolees, but the experience was just as insightful. Observing with a background of knowledge gave context, allowed for appreciative inquiry to be coupled with criticalness, and drove new areas of inquiry, investigation, and advocacy. For example, observing the training and learning the experiences of trainers solidified for Ricciardelli that correctional officers are first responders – as she was trained for fire responses, for policing responses, and for pre-medicine responses. As a result of this insight, she wrote a position paper advocating for the recognition of correctional officers in Canada as first responders with federal recognition under the Memorial Grant supported by Public Safety Canada (Ricciardelli, 2019). The recognition of correctional, probation, and parole officers under the grant and as first responders came to fruition and made federal policy in 2020. Her participation also helped inform a longitudinal study, where she studies correctional officers, starting at training through to 10 years post-deployment into a prison (Ricciardelli et al., 2021). As a research strategy, participant observation has been viewed as a neglected and underused technique in criminal justice (Hagan, 2000, pp. 211–212) where “true participation is fraught with epistemological and methodological challenges and is consequently quite rare” (Davies et al., 2011, p. 351). One of these challenges lies in its immersive character. According to Jupp (1989, p. 58), and signalling a particular complexity, participant observation involves taking on some role in the social group, or on the fringes of it, and observing, reflecting upon, and interpreting the actions of individuals within
Prison officer training 85 the group. Characteristically, participant observers become immersed in the “field” . . . it is often difficult to separate the data from the researcher and to separate the act of collecting data from the act of participating. When speaking to immersive ethnographic work, where the researcher cannot avoid observing participants in rather intimate moments, data collection and living become intertwined such that the space in which research stops and life starts can become obscured. Necessary here is active effort on the part of the researcher to disambiguate and prevent “going native”, as we discuss, where one becomes overly engrossed in the field. What is key, and central to our experience, is maintaining the researcher lens, which required staying aware of the ethics of what we observed, staying out of the day-to-day interpersonal potential conflicts, and being able to respectfully differentiate between what is data and what experiences witnessed were outside the scope of what constitutes research. Some of the perhaps most interesting details of the ethnographic experience are beyond the scope of ethical research. For example, Ricciardelli witnessed persons in her training cohort be removed and sent home. These moments were personal, private, and not something requiring documentation in depth in any research – unethical would be explaining the nuance around such events such that the privacy of the trainees observed would be violated. As an ethnographic technique, the early roots of participant observation lie within social anthropology and the study of preliterate tribes (Bernard, 1994). Within what is described as “the criminological enterprise” (Jupp, 1989), the method of participant observation was pioneered in the 1920s by students at the Chicago School of Sociology. Some of the classic observational studies of that time include an ethnography of a hobo area of Chicago (Anderson, 1923); a study of gangs (Thrasher, 1928); a study of Chicago nightlife (the “taxi-dance halls”) (Cressey, 1932); and, later, a participant observational study of street-corner gangs in the Italian neighbourhood of Boston (Whyte, 1943). In Britain, as well as the United States, much ethnographic research has focused on deviant and criminal behaviour and subcultures, such as drug takers (Young, 1971), professional criminals (Taylor, 1984), pool hustlers and con artists (Polsky, 1967), drug dealers and smugglers (Adler & Adler, 1985; Yablonsky, 1965), and youth gangs (Gittings, 1966; Jankowski, 1991; and Sullivan, 1989). Canadian ethnographies draw from these studies and include a rich array of populations including computer hackers (Kleinknecht, 2003), Hassidic Jews (Shaffir, 1983), and conceptual developments such as “generic social processes” during ethnographic research (Prus, 1987). Participant observation has also been employed as a primary means of data gathering in studies of the workings of the criminal justice system, particularly in relation to policing and police culture (see, for example, Holdaway 1983; Manning & Van Maanen, 1979; Manning, 1972; Punch, 1979, 1985; Reiss, 1971; Sanders, 1977; Skolnick, 1966). These studies are riddled with ethical considerations, not limited to the simple fact that a participant often does not consent to being observed. Consent is not necessary for participant observation in most public spaces but still creates a precarious position for the aware and empathetic
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researcher who understands that one may not want to be observed and part of the research story, despite their presence at a certain time and place. In the context of correctional work, full participant observation studies are a rarity; most studies are what we call semi-ethnographic in nature, combining interviews of prisoners or prison staff with observation within prison spaces or other carceral realms. Full participant observation studies are atypical and exceptional; only a small handful of scholars have completed immersive ethnographic studies of correctional/prison officer training including the authors (Arnold, 2008 and Ricciardelli, 2022a, 2022b), as well as the work of Klassen (2018). Thus, the two studies discussed here represent privileged access and unique critical insight into the prison/ correctional officer role and the milieu of the training environment. Participant observation can be classified into four types, depending on the varying degrees to which both participation and observation are employed, each with its own ethical considerations. These are described along a continuum as “complete participation”, “participant as observer”, “observer as participant”, and “complete observation” (Gold, 1958). In the case of both studies, the approach adopted can be best described as “participant as observer”, which means we generally made our presence known and attempted to objectively observe the activities of the group without influencing situations; we both participated in the training and observed as we participated. The immersive component was felt cognitively, physically, and situationally. We can speak to the bodily pains of physical activity, the cognitive pains of being away from our families, and the situational pains of navigating training demands and living with a group of strangers for an extended time period. Given the rarity of previous studies involving participant observation in the field of correctional services, it is worth iterating and reflecting here on the work of Marquart (1986). Marquart worked as a prison officer for 19 months, collecting data on prison life while doing so. His aim was to examine the official and unofficial methods of prisoner control and discipline, in a large maximum-security penitentiary in Texas. Marquart describes his research strategy as “complete participation” where in his role of researcher–officer, he “collected ethnographic materials while working, participating and observing in a variety of locations and activities” (1986, p. 36). Marquart’s account represents one of the very few immersive participant observation studies within prison research, and his article “addresses the strengths, weaknesses, and ethical implications of the researcherguard role and full participation as a prison methodology” (1986, p. 36). While Marquart’s work has a different focus than our own – our research period was restricted to the initial training course only, and we spent no time as an operational member of staff while his omitted prison officer training and involved an extended period working on the frontline – there are similarities in terms of the ethical dilemmas he faced and the strategies he adopted. Marquart comments on the complex ethical issues for the researcher using this type of methodology, including the representation of identity and disclosure; the time-consuming demands of the special problems of building rapport, gaining acceptance, earning respect, and establishing trust from other officers (where he
Prison officer training 87 established his credibility by successfully defending himself against an attack by a prisoner). Marquart also discussed role conflict (the persistent problem of balancing the role of researcher with the role of officer recruit – where he notes the emotionally and physically taxing nature of the outside–inside role and the need to wear “two hats” and where the officer role often superseded his sociological interests) and “going native”. Marquart faced occupational pressures (such as the need to be security conscious) which he stated made remaining a uniformed sociologist (or outsider) difficult. His “deep involvement in the guard world” meant that he “slowly adopted the guard perspective”, becoming an apologist for the officers. Marquart concedes that he was “a guard forced to confront the enormous pressures of occupational socialization . . . the major drawback of full participation”, that he was “expected to think, act, and talk like a guard”, and that therefore “it was a personal battle to refrain from ‘going native’” (1986, p. 41). Marquart admits: The activities of entering the prison, negotiating a research role, establishing field relations, studying social control and order, and exiting the field were not the clear and orderly processes so often described in ethnographic reports . . . immersion in the prison scene placed some unusual demands on me as an observer (and person) not generally experienced by other more “traditional” qualitative researchers. . . . Complete participation is a viable research role, yet there are some pitfalls. (1986, p. 36) It is these pitfalls, as experienced in our ethnographic studies of becoming correctional officers, that we now turn to.
Entering the field: disclosure, deceit, and consent The usual, more traditional, ethical issues to be addressed in criminal justice research, which can be referred to as the four Cs: confidentiality (including anonymity), consent, competence (of the researchers), and consideration of harm, were largely redundant in their conventional pre-planned application in the case of our two studies. Much prison research involves standard methods of data collection such as questionnaires and interviews (or even shadowing and focus groups) alongside periods of general observation and informal conversations. In such research, the ethical approval process dictates that researchers identify any potential and expected ethical issues in advance and specify mitigating practices to address these possible challenges. For example, issues of consent and confidentiality are somewhat “fixed” and straightforward once methods of maintaining confidentiality and gaining consent are decided, and where informed consent involves assurances of confidentiality. However, during immersive periods in the field, many of the typical ethical issues require instead continual negotiation and testing; they are more complicated or “messy” and at more risk of being compromised.
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In terms of confidentiality, assuring participants of the privacy of their data was not relevant, when data (in the form of survey or interview responses) were not being routinely collected; there were no such tools of data collection employed, only our own daily notes and reflections which were not guided by or structured according to any schedule. Assurances were limited to explaining that we would not pass on our handwritten notes to anyone else and would not use their names or any identifying information in writing up our study. Moreover, confidentiality, for Ricciardelli, included holding in confidence diverse perspectives across lines of power (e.g. trainer to recruit, administrator to trainer). Basically, she could never disclose anything and instead only listened to protect the trust of those she observed. On entering the field, there were three immediate and interlinked ethical hurdles to navigate: disclosure, deceit, and consent. These hurdles can be considered a series of questions we needed to ask ourselves: who do we tell, when do we tell, and what do we tell? In the case of Arnold’s research, and at select times that of Ricciardelli, these three ethical issues were continuous in that there was no single occasion where disclosure was made or could be made. The reality was that there were no identifiable and contactable individual subjects prior to the study; “participants” in the form of new recruits and training staff were, at the outset, largely unknown, until arrival at the respective training colleges. For Ricciardelli, this was complicated by a simultaneous longitudinal study with CSC underway, which provided her with knowledge of trainers and even some familiarity with any recruits who she had previously met through the study. Nevertheless, it was not possible to seek formal consent when we did not know what would be relevant to record (what recruits or trainers might do or say) or what we would be doing. All that was possible was to inform participants at the outset who we were and why we were there. Finding an opportune moment to do this, by necessity, required “reading the room” rather than a pre-fieldwork decision. For Arnold, there was the added complication that participants could also, potentially, be any of the prisoners or prison staff at the “parent prison” where phases of the new entrant training took place. This meant that seeking informed consent was impossible. Ricciardelli, who did not have an in-prison component to her study, was able to disclose the study more easily (on one occasion), which she did quickly, on day one of training, to maintain the status of a trusted outsider. Never an insider, she was always fully engaged but never fully ingrained into the greater prison cultures. She also had to balance relationships with trainers and those with recruits, toeing a fine line because of her awareness across perspectives and places (i.e. those of trainers, administrators, and recruits). Arnold also revealed her identity as researcher at the outset, although it was not until part-way through the first day of residential training at the Prison Service college that an opportune moment for doing so was presented. This initial disclosure was only partial and limited to her allocated “section” of the cohort (around a third of the recruits) and one trainer which necessitated many further occasions of informing other recruits. She, wrongly, assumed that the other staff and trainers at the college either already knew of her “true” identity or would learn of it from
Prison officer training 89 her section training officer, but on several occasions it became apparent they were unaware. Identity disclosure in the prison was more complex, time-consuming, and inevitably restricted: the logistics of repeated disclosure, and ensuring all staff knew of her identity, was made impossible by the number and transience of the tri-partite subject group and the time this would have taken. The strategy adopted was not only to tell as many prison staff as (and when) possible, to avoid deception, but also to refrain from telling prisoners to keep the experience of becoming a new officer as authentic as possible. Arnold’s study therefore consisted of part overt and part covert participant observation, the latter concomitant with the submission that, ideally, her identity should not be made known as a researcher (Sarantakos, 2005). Previous prison research experience had taught Arnold to frame identity in a way that was often readily accepted by prison staff socialised to be suspicious and distrusting of others; the specifics of the study were kept vague, and staff simply construed that she was a student studying what it was like to become an officer and required their support and acceptance. The ethical dilemmas of participant observation were epitomised for Arnold when she came across a prisoner who knew and recognised her from previous research; his response was shock and disbelief, and he chastised her for duplicity in “defecting” to the Prison Service. Arnold made the decision (which the circumstance demanded to be made in situ and thus quickly) to concede her role, thus compromising the resolve not to tell prisoners, and to trust him not to divulge her continued position as a researcher (albeit uniformed) to other prisoners (which to her knowledge he honoured). In this decision, integrity and credence were prioritised and deception and animosity minimised. Two key factors were at play here: prisoner culture (where the maxims of the inmate code dictated antagonism between staff and prisoners) and power dynamics (which conceded that prisoner consent was negotiated through relationships with officers). This example illustrates the dynamic nature of ethnographic research and how difficult it is to clarify in advance the exigencies often demanded by ethics boards. Disclosure in both settings led to heightened, rather than diminished, trust, and acceptance; informal access was in this way granted. Many officers, whether in the prison or the training college, expressed their admiration, respect, and appreciation for the extent of the undertaking and the commitment to completing the training required. Both researchers were afforded trust and acceptance through their openness and honesty about their role and their dedication to learning the often difficult-to-grasp practical elements of training such as firearms and restraint. Neither abandoned their role when the “going got tough”, each simultaneously keeping a certain distance and, while taking on the role of an officer in training, not pretending to be one of them. Our ethnographic studies called into question the appropriateness of the label of “participant” and designating the recruits, staff (and, for Arnold, prisoners) that we came into contact with, or observed, as such. For example, we may not have “used” any of that contact or observation to inform our findings, or noted anything that they said or did. Likewise, we may have noted information told to us about
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someone else, or particular events, as behaviours and conversations would flow in and out of our analysis and could appear after a time interval as we recognised the salience of repeated observations. Our “participants”, then, were fluid, distant, and unconstrained by time and space – perhaps “subject group” would be a better term, although it was in effect ourselves who were the key participants in our studies.1 The fluid and distant nature of the participants also made consideration of harm rather abstract and intangible, beyond the potential harm caused by the training programme or daily prison life, neither of which we had any control over. We did, of course, consider how our own actions may impact the subject group without compromising the extent of our participation in training modules (by ensuring we followed all safety procedures and techniques to the best of our ability). Our competence as researchers could, in fact, be questioned given the unique and unprecedented environment and context of the research (and was brought into question as a result of assumptions about going native – see later), but this was offset by our previous research experience alongside significant exposure to and knowledge of prisons, prisoners, and prison officers. In relation to deceit, King and Liebling (2008, p. 444) assert that in the field, researchers should “always be ready to explain as fully and truthfully as possible what you are doing and why”. That, for Arnold, repeated disclosures diminished and eventually ceased after some time in the prison, invites consideration of the extent to which deceit took place: many staff, and all bar one prisoner, did not know her research identity. Although Ricciardelli did not employ any deceit around her researcher role, she did refrain from providing information and often was left pretending she had no information about occurrences in instances where she (likely obviously) did – this was to protect the confidentiality of her subject group. This raises an important distinction between “formal deceit” (i.e. that is pre-emptive and planned) and “organic deceit” that is occasioned and justified through unplanned and selective non-disclosure in the field. Concession was given to the doctrine of informed consent in our studies where the principle that participants have the basic right to know they are participating in research and to have the option of whether to participate or not (Jupp, 1989, p. 147) was justly marginalised in favour of ourselves as primary subjects of the research.
Not “Going Native”: role immersion, conflict, and liminality Suggestive of ethnography’s early roots in social anthropology, the term “going native” refers to the circumstance whereby the researcher becomes over-involved in, or over-identifies with, the group under study and “in the process abandons his or her role as an objective researcher” (Hagan, 2000, p. 216). The consequence is that “the observer becomes more of a participant and less of an observer and also begins to take statements and actions for granted rather than as data to be examined” (Jupp, 1989, p. 60) and questioned. In short, “going native” refers to becoming so immersed in the role and in the world being studied that academic veracity and objectivity get left behind; the analytic role becomes abandoned and detached analysis forsaken. Going native therefore clearly has very negative
Prison officer training 91 connotations with regard to the competence of the researcher. Questions regarding “going native” surround degrees of closeness; how close should you become, and how close is too close? King and Liebling (2008, p. 446) acknowledge that “brief spells of going native may be inevitable”, which suggests not only that the position, or effect, is irreversible and permanent but also that it is unavoidable, and perhaps even necessary, in prison research. King (2000) listed ten nostrums for field research in prisons. One such nostrum is You must do whatever you have to do to observe but do not go native. King’s contention is that “observation is much more important than participation” (King, 2000, p. 304); he presents a cautionary tale to support this view. He recounts having arranged for a graduate student to go through an entire prison officer training programme: careful protocols were put in place and everyone, both trainers and trainees, knew that he was a graduate student studying first hand the process of becoming a prison officer which was to be the subject of his PhD – exactly as in the case of Arnold’s participant observation study. King (2000, pp. 304–305) states: In the process the student concerned went so native that he lost all powers of observation and was incapable of making any kind of detached analysis. He became, to all intents and purposes, a prison officer (though without the licence to practise) and he has never completed his PhD. King argues that participating as an observer in prisons is not to be recommended since the researcher “inevitably constitutes a new element in the situation, and thereby changes it” (2000, p. 305). This alludes to what Marquart (1986, p. 42) refers to as the concept of “reactivity” (“the proclivity of the research subjects to alter their behaviour as a consequence of the researcher’s presence”) or the Hawthorne effect. King (2000, p. 305) proposes “going native, or getting too close to prisoners or staff, will almost certainly be counter-productive”. King may argue that our respective studies would place us too close to staff, but he also acknowledges that there are no right answers to where boundaries should be drawn, contending that boundary creation depends on what one is trying to achieve and a researcher drawing some line and being able to justify that line may be preferable “to a position based on high principles of scientific independence or neutrality which may be difficult to realise in practice” (ibid, p. 306). He continues in writing that “at bottom it is up to the researcher to demonstrate to both staff and prisoners that he or she seeks to learn from and appreciate all points of view, without necessarily committing him- or herself to any of them” (ibid, p. 306). In this sense, where the line falls may appear arbitrary, but it must be justified. Bryman (2012, p. 445) proposes that the concept of “going native” Refers to a plight that is supposed sometimes to afflict ethnographers when they lose their sense of being a researcher and become wrapped up in the worldview of the people they are studying. The prolonged immersion of ethnographers in the lives of the people they study, coupled with the commitment
Helen Arnold and Rosemary Ricciardelli to seeing the social world through their eyes, lie behind the risk and actuality of going native.
He goes on to propose that going native is a potential (but not inevitable) risk, especially because the researcher can lose sight of their position as researcher and “therefore find it difficult to develop a social scientific angle on the collection and analysis of data” (ibid). We would argue that because, in essence, we were our own subjects and source of data, this reduced the risk of going native that might be more likely when studies involve getting close to those whose lives are being investigated; we were not there to scrutinise others but to learn through our own experiences of participating in a process. In addition, while we endured the training course alongside the cohort this was not coupled with the anticipation, fears, and concerns of becoming fully operational in a prison. We reminded ourselves, and were reminded, that we were not going to ever work as a correctional/prison officer; there were things we knew we would never need to do again and situations we would never face. Further, while we were exposed to official conceptualisations of what being a correctional/prison officer means at the same times as the cohort, this did not extend to indoctrination; we learnt the techniques, skills and practices, and reams of information but much less a likeness in thought and opinion. In the case of Marquart (1986), three factors helped in his battle to refrain from “going native” and to maintain some role stability and distance. First, he left the prison on his designated days off and maintained non-guard associations that he deemed critical to remaining objective. Second, he avoided fronting behaviour (acting tough would indicate a more total immersion in prison culture); and third, he made extensive field notes about role conflict which kept him aware of how “deeply” he was moving into the guard subculture. Arnold and Ricciardelli adopted similar stratagems: Ricciardelli, for example, actively removed herself from the academy to create and sustain firm boundaries and to prevent going native by becoming too wrapped up in the experience. She intentionally left for weekends at times, or, if there were prior commitments that could not be moved (she only had 3 months between being awarded the grant for the study and starting training which meant some commitments were solidified beyond training participation tied to her primary role as a professor and thus always researcher). These absences or times of reprieve were critical given Ricciardelli was living alongside her cohort and others enrolled at the academy. Arnold, as with other recruits, left the training college each weekend and ensured any designated periods off duty from the prison were filled with her normal activities and associations; conversations about her research were not avoided; they were useful in helping to objectify and offer alternative perspectives on her experience and observations. Like Marquart, she also captured in her field notes as much as possible how she felt and experienced training in comparison to her colleagues. The process of writing each evening served to reinforce her identity as a researcher, mitigated against the pitfall of over-socialisation and identification and becoming too ingrained in the group, and helped her retain objectivity. With shared living arrangements rapport
Prison officer training 93 develops. While rapport with the subject group is clearly critical, “over-rapport” or getting too close can be seen “to compromise . . . academic understanding . . . but can also be seen as exploitative in the sense that superficial friendships are created for the purpose of data collection” (Wincup, 2017, p. 120). Thus, Arnold and Ricciardelli choose to protect against “over-rapport” with reprieve used intentionally as a way to help keep reflexively detached and committed to the role of ethnographic subject in the correctional training process. One of the ways “going native” might be said to manifest is in “taking sides”, that is, being unable to maintain neutrality, such that the researcher becomes somewhat immune to differing accounts and perceptions of different groups. One of the ways Arnold was ascribed the “gone native” label was in the assumption that because she was training to be a prison officer and took on that role within the prison, she had taken this role “too far”. “Too far”, in this instance, referred to being too embedded in the “side” of prison staff, suggesting a lack of neutrality and alignment with the prisoners’ experiences and perceptions of their predicament, which laid bare the crucial nature of staff–prisoner relationships. Having empathy for the officer role did not preclude any less general concern for the prisoner predicament; it is of course possible to be sympathetic to both “sides” without going native. In sum, it was the demands of the dual role of new recruit and researcher that needed more careful management than the risks of “going native”. It was being an outsider inside or being neither insider nor outsider – existing in liminal state – that perhaps had a more negative personal impact.
Impact and identity As asserted by Jupp (1989, p. 60) “the decision to collect data by participant observation carries with it certain consequences for the researcher”. In particular, the “personal and ethical problems generated by carrying out the dual role of observer and participant” (ibid.) have been acknowledged by several fieldworkers. Holdaway (1983, p. 9) recognised that conditions of stress were created as a result of the tension he experienced “from working with officers who did not share my values and assumptions about policing”. He found himself occasionally retreating “from conversations and incidents” over which he had no control, and which he found “distasteful”. He states, “at times I had to deal with an officer whose behaviour exceeded the bounds of what I considered reasonable conduct”, and concluded that “these situations could easily get in the way of research and increased the pressure of my work”. Ricciardelli, for example, often experienced tensions (too personal to explain in a chapter), that in essence arose from living alongside different individuals where there will be interpersonal conflict between people. What she found difficult was always remaining neutral and refraining from comment, particularly when actions were explicitly wrong in many different ways, or intentionally harmful towards another. Ethically and morally, it was difficult to remain neutral – and even felt impossible at times – and led to much questioning about what
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constitutes respect (e.g. for all feelings and perspectives) and the ethical realities of confidentiality. She felt obliged to retain confidence with every participant/subject observed, which meant being neutral and supportive of the overall collective. Such instances could be around more “trivial” but impactful discussion (e.g. what to do at a charitable fundraiser) or also tied to instances in training or witnessing interpersonal conflict or simply disputes over living arrangements (e.g. who uses what bathroom), and peoples’ individual habits (e.g. frequency of handwashing). These challenges were most consuming, as they resulted in personal reflection and impacted self-perception and identity. The researcher role forced her to be a bystander and often remain silent: she could not inform when misinformation was circulating, she could not act when unintentional harm occurred, and she had to listen to realities that she adamantly disagreed with and had to always be neutral. Coming to terms with her own behaviours was psychologically challenging at times and a source of significant stress, which impacted her mentally and physically. Of note, it remains uncertain how she, like Arnold, was seen by her cohort. Ricciardelli’s identity was also impacted by the positioning of her researcher role over that of her “mother” role – a genuine ethical conflict felt by the researcher that is often omitted in discussion about the ethics of ethnographic work that is so immersive. Ricciardelli struggled because in leaving her family for 14 weeks, even with short returns, she felt she was prioritising her researcher role over being a mother. It was hard, at times impossibly so. But it also came with judgement and the misconception that the ethnography meant that research was prioritised over family, which is naïve and clearly not the case. The ethical conflict was multifold. It included not only self-questioning and guilt because of the misconception but also understanding; her fellow recruits had also left their young children and families for 14 weeks, but without reprieve, to embark on a new career. She understood their positioning, which was important, as, just as she had experienced, life was happening for all recruits. Hagan (2000, p. 214) suggests that “the most distinctive qualities of participant observation are the demands on time and personal cost” where cost refers not to financial obligations but to personal involvement. For Arnold, there were very few instances of such tension and retreat; there were no specific instances of interpersonal conflict. Rather, it was the considerable time commitment to undertaking the 11-week training course and the immersive nature of the research that took its toll emotionally and psychologically (the same was experienced for Ricciardelli). The constant requirement to “operate mentally on two different levels” (Hagan, 2000, p. 214) exerted significant pressure and doubt about her ability to perform well as a young researcher, and to do justice to the privileged position and access she had been granted. Constant self-assessment, lack of confidence, and anxiety about her competence translated into a need to succeed on the course (and pass with “flying colours”) and a need to write everything down, all feelings Ricciardelli echoed. These performative pressures were exacerbated in the prison where impression management was all the more requisite and emotional labour all the more an outcome. She experienced, which Ricciardelli again echoes in sentiment, fears about (inadvertently) “fucking it up” on the landings (which she was told
Prison officer training 95 she had by a resident prisoner when trying, and fumbling, to shoot the bolt on a cell door), about saying or doing the “wrong thing”, about breaching security, and about being seen as not a good officer. She worried about how to stand; how much she should talk to prisoners as an “officer” (something she was used to doing at every opportunity as a “civilian” researcher); and she felt more vulnerable in a uniform. On some days the fears, concerns, self-doubt, and self-induced pressures were overwhelming and on one day where she felt unable to don the officer hat and walk in the prison gate, she turned the car around and drove home.
Leaving the field Wincup (2017) identified several common themes within published accounts regarding the process of leaving (or “getting out”): reflecting on when to leave, managing the relationships formed, and deciding whether to return. She also suggests that “the researcher’s departure, if misunderstood or viewed unfavourably by the research participants, may strongly affect the efforts of future researchers in the same or similar settings” (Wincup, 2017, p. 76). Wincup’s words reflect a researcher’s obligation to their discipline, which is explored in codes of ethics (Wincup, 2017). King (2000) argues that the reputation of all researchers can depend on the legacy left behind by any one individual. Thus, managing your way out of the field setting is an ethical consideration. King recommends avoiding making promises that cannot be kept, taking time to discuss and explain the research throughout, being alert to rumours so that they can be quashed as quickly as possible, and tying up loose ends before leaving the field. In our studies, there was an obvious end to the fieldwork that did not require negotiation or a reflective decision on behalf of the researchers; at the end of the training course, following graduation, we said goodbye to our respective training colleagues. Both Arnold and Ricciardelli’s subject group would be departing for their operational post and continuing their prison officer journey; for Arnold there was an intention to conduct follow-up interviews with a sample of recruits from her cohort, which they were made aware of and for Ricciardelli most of the cohort would be participating in the longitudinal study she led. In the context of the ethnographic studies, for us, there were no issues of achieving a certain number of interviews or completed surveys, nor of data saturation. While we may not have felt that we had gained a “complete” understanding of the setting and the process that we set out to investigate, and that we were likely to find “missing pieces”, the period of participant observation was fixed, and the completion of the training course had been achieved in both cases. We had to accept that we had gained a “good enough” understanding, or, at least, had done the best we could in the time frame available. In addition, it should be recognised that both researchers experienced research fatigue; not in the sense that they had become bored and uninspired by the data collection process but that they were emotionally, and somewhat physically, drained. For Arnold and Ricciardelli, it was not wholly possible to take breaks from the fieldwork, just as the cohort could not pause their training to take breath.
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Arnold took an active part in the graduation ceremony at the Wakefield PS Training College. Her cohort refused to let her leave without “passing out” in full dress uniform alongside her section, and even collated a petition to this effect should the senior staff refuse this. They were voracious in their view that this was wholly deserved as she had completed everything the rest of the cohort had to “pass” the course and become an officer. The dress uniform was borrowed, allowing for the fact that she would never need to wear it again. She appeared and was named in the official graduation photo, and even took part in the Control and Restraint demonstration (complete in overalls and a protective helmet) to a large audience of invited friends and family of the cohort. Almost all parts of the standard uniform were returned to the college; she was not permitted to keep any items other than her baton as a souvenir. The return of the uniform was symbolic of shedding the prison officer role. In contrast, Ricciardelli refused to graduate. She had not completed the entire 14 weeks and had thus missed tests, but more so, she, unlike Arnold, had not worked a day in a prison as a correctional officer. Thus, to wear the uniform was, in her view, unearned. The academy was ready to put together a borrowed uniform but appreciated her perspective. She was at the graduation and was happy to see the graduates – who earned every welcomed accolade and celebration.
Concluding comments Overall, not only did our participant observation studies permit understanding of the prison and correctional officer role from the standpoint of the actor and critical insight into the milieu of the training environment, but the ethnographic nature of our research allowed our understanding to be augmented and enhanced by critical observation of our own selves and our responses to undergoing the various components of the training. There were periods of uncertainty laced through all the ethical issues we have discussed as well as a level of flux and liminality; we were never an officer but never just a researcher. An important methodological lesson we both learnt was that immersion does not mean jeopardy of objectivity and research integrity, but it can place not insignificant personal and professional demands on those undertaking such deep ethnographic work.
Note 1 In this sense, the “observer as participant” category (Gold, 1958) might be a more apt description of the stance we took in our research. This stance “enables the researcher to participate in the group activities as desired, yet the main role of the researcher . . . is to collect data . . . the researcher is interested in participating as a means for conducting better observation and, hence, generating more complete understanding of the group’s activities” (Kawulich, 2005). Gold’s categories reflect ideal types; in reality, research often requires shifts in the degree of both participation and observation, and as such researcher identity is malleable to the different situations they find themselves in. However, deceit in participant observation research also carries the potential risk of future researchers being seen as complicit with officers.
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References Adler, P. A., & Adler, P. (1985). Wheeling and dealing: An ethnography of upper level drug dealing and smuggling community. Columbia University Press. Anderson, N. (1923). The hobo. University of Chicago Press. Arnold, H. (2008). The experience of prison officer training. In J. Bennett, B. Crewe, & A. Wahidin (Eds.), Understanding prison staff (pp. 399–418). Willan Publishing. Bernard, R. H. (1994). Research methods in anthropology. SAGE. Bryman, A. (2012). Social research methods (4th ed.). Oxford University Press. Cressey, P. G. (1932). The taxi-dance hall: A sociological study in commercialized recreation and city life. University of Chicago Press. Davies, P., Francis, P., & Jupp, V. (2011). Doing criminological research. SAGE. Douglas, J. D. (1972). Research on deviance. Random. Douglas, J. D. (1976). Investigative social research. SAGE. Elliott, C. (1999). Locating the energy for change: An introduction to appreciative inquiry. International Institute for Sustainable Development. Gittings, J. A. (1966). Life without living: People of the inner city. Westminster Press. Gold, R. L. (1958). Roles in sociological field observations. Social Forces, 36, 217–223. Hagan, F. E. (2000). Research methods in criminal justice and criminology (5th ed.). Allyn and Bacon. Holdaway, S. (1983). Inside the British police. Blackwell. Jankowski, M. S. (1991). Islands in the streets: Gangs and American urban society. University of California Press. Jupp, V. (1989). Methods of criminological research. Routledge. Kawulich, B. B. (2005). Participant observation as a data collection method. Forum Qualitative Social Research, 6(2), Article 43. King, R. D. (2000). Doing research in prisons. In R. D. King & E. Wincup (Eds.), Doing research on crime and justice (pp. 285–310). Oxford University Press. King, R. D., & Liebling, A. (2008). Doing research in prisons. In R. D. King & E. Wincup (Eds.), Doing research on crime and justice (2nd ed., pp. 431–451). Oxford University Press. Klassen, A. L. (2018). Correctional officer training and the secure containment of risk and dangerousness in a Canadian provincial jurisdiction. PhD Dissertation. Toronto: University of Toronto. Kleinknecht, S. W. (2003). Hacking hackers: Ethnographic insights into the hacker subculture-definition, ideology and argot. Master of Arts Thesis. Hamilton: McMaster University. Liebling, A., Elliott, C., & Arnold, H. (2001). Transforming the prison: Romantic optimism or appreciative realism? Criminal Justice, 1(2), 161–180. Manning, P. K. (1972). Observing the police: Deviants, respectables, and the law. In J. D. Douglas (Ed.), Research on deviance. Random. Manning, P. K., & Van Maanen, J. (Eds.). (1979). Policing: A view from the streets. Goodyear. Marquart, J. W. (1986). Doing research in prison: The strengths and weaknesses of full participation as a guard. Justice Quarterly, 3, 15–32. Pearson, G. (1993). Talking a good fight: Authenticity and distance in the ethnographer’s craft. In D. Hobbs & T. May (Eds.), Interpreting the field: Accounts of ethnography. Oxford University Press. Polsky, N. (1967). Hustlers, beats and others. Aldine.
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Prus, R. (1987). Generic social processes: Maximizing conceptual development in ethnographic research. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 16(3), 250–293. Punch, M. (1979). Policing the inner city. Macmillan. Punch, M. (1985). Conduct unbecoming. Tavistock. Reiss, A. J. (1971). The police and the public. Yale University Press. Ricciardelli, R. (2019). Also serving time: The prison officer experience in Canadian provincial and territorial correctional facilities. University of Toronto Press. Ricciardelli, R. (2022a). Ethnographic experiences of participating in a correctional officer training program: An exploration of values, ethics, and role conflict. Ethnography. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F14661381211069045 Ricciardelli, R. (2022b). Informing correctional officer discretion: A co-response model and legal vulnerabilities inherent to prison work. The Prison Journal. https://doi. org/10.1177/00328855221136195 Ricciardelli, R., Andres, E., Mitchell, M. M., et al. (2021). CCWORK protocol: A longitudinal study of Canadian correctional workers’ well-being, organizations, roles and knowledge. BMJ Open, 11, e052739. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2021-052739 Sanders, W. B. (1977). Detective work. Free Press. Sarantakos, S. (2005). Social research (3rd ed.). Palgrave Macmillan. Shaffir, W. (1983). Hassidic jews and Quebec politics. The Jewish Journal of Sociology, 25(2), 105–118. Skolnick, J. H. (1966). Justice without trial: Law enforcement in democratic society. Wiley. Sullivan, M. (1989). Getting paid: Youth crime and work in the inner city. Cornell University Press. Taylor, L. (1984). In the underworld. Blackwell. Thrasher, F. (1928). The gang: A study of 1,313 gangs in Chicago. University of Chicago Press. Whyte, W. F. (1943). Street corner society. University of Chicago Press. Wincup, E. (2017). Criminological research: Understanding qualitative methods (2nd ed.). SAGE. Yablonsky, L. (1965). Experiences with the criminal community. In A. W. Gouldner & S. M. Miller (Eds.), Applied sociology. Free Press. Young, J. (1971). The drug takers. Paladin.
The ethics of researching “hard to reach” populations The case of “hidden” older illegal drug users and the attendant advantages of an ethical approach David Moxon and Jaime Waters
Introduction It is to some extent inevitable in criminological and wider social scientific research that some investigators, often passionately involved in their area of study and sometimes with deeply held political or theoretical commitments, are inclined to see ethics as something of a necessary inconvenience. In our experience there is, at times, a tendency for ethical issues to be dealt with almost as an afterthought, or perhaps as an obstacle to be negotiated before the “real” business of the research can begin. In this chapter, we argue that such an approach to ethics is misguided, and use the example of one particular study to suggest that not only is fidelity to ethical principles important on its own terms, chiefly to protect participants, but fidelity can also contribute to the success of scholarly research in other, less immediately obvious ways. We begin the chapter by providing some background to the study in question, a project that focused on a so-called hard to reach or hidden population of older illegal drug users (Moxon & Waters, 2017). We will then go on to show how the ethical precautions that were necessary to protect what was a particularly vulnerable group of participants also, as the project progressed, revealed themselves to have a number of incidental and somewhat serendipitous advantages that we had not considered at the outset. In the period of work before the collection of data commenced, the ethical precautions we adopted offered reassurance to potential participants and encouraged their involvement in the study during what proved to be a very difficult process of sample building. During the data collection phase, which in this case involved semi-structured interviews, our gradual ceding of control to the participants served to reassure them that our intentions were benign and ultimately resulted in the gathering of far richer qualitative data than would otherwise have been the case. After the data collection was completed, ethical protocols assumed great importance as we now held potentially incriminating information that required careful handling to ensure the ongoing protection of our participants and to make good the assurances we had given to them initially. We speculatively suggest in the final section of the chapter that these continuing and open-ended
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efforts at protection have the potential to assist, however subtly and intangibly, the wider community of scholarly researchers. The willingness of target populations to participate in research, and to do so in an enthusiastic spirit of co-operation, might well be aided by the steady accretion of trust won over time by ethically conducted studies that do not result in negative consequences for the participants. Seen in this light, ethical safeguards and procedures are revealed as being of value on three distinct levels: they protect participants, they can contribute to the success of the research project at hand, and they can potentially augment the wider acceptance and vitality of criminological and social scientific research.
Background of the study Over the past couple of decades, there has been a growing recognition that illegal drug use is not an activity confined to the young, as was often previously assumed. The “maturation hypotheses” (Winick, 1962), which famously suggested that users “mature out” of drug use during their thirties, became something of a received wisdom and contributed to a dearth of research on older users relative to their younger counterparts. This idea has been challenged by a body of research evidence that has steadily accrued suggesting that older illegal drug users do in fact exist, and are increasing in number (Stephens, 1991; Anderson & Levy, 2003; Sullum, 2003; Notley, 2005; Waters, 2009; Hathaway et al., 2010; Fahmy et al., 2012; Askew, 2016; Williams & Askew, 2016; Moxon & Waters, 2017; Beate & Williams, 2019). In something of a watershed, in 2015 the United Kingdom (UK) government’s annual report into “drug misuse”, based on the findings of the Crime Survey for England and Wales, included for the first time an annex on “older drug users” (Home Office, 2015a, p. 27). Findings included that past year illegal drug use among 40–59-year-olds had increased since 1996 and remained stable over the previous decade, against a backdrop of falling rates of use among other cohorts. Since the 2017–2018 run of the Survey, 60–74-year-olds have been asked about their illegal drug use as a result of the upper age limit for the self-completion module of the survey being extended (Office for National Statistics, 2020, p. 3). Furthermore, outside of the academy, the rise of the older user is recognised by a range of commentators and has become something of a cultural trope. This is particularly so in the United States (US), where the lifestyles of the so-called baby boomers have become a national talking point. As Black and Joseph (2014, p. 822) put it, popular depictions of grey-haired pot smokers have ranged from retired empty-nesters picking up marijuana in their newly acquired free time, to freewheeling hippies who never put away their pipes, and to older adults turning to pot to relieve health problems associated with aging. While the tone of much of this coverage has been light-hearted, concerns about the public health implications of increased drug use among older people have
The ethics of researching “hard to reach” populations 101 periodically been aired on both sides of the Atlantic (Lazar, 2010; Roxby, 2010; Daily Mail, 2011; National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2020). Beyond the existence of older users that is finally being acknowledged, there has also been a creeping acceptance of the idea that illegal drug use can form a routine component of a “conventional” everyday life (Plant, 1975; Hathaway, 1997a, 1997b; Pearson, 2001; Hammersley, 2011; Moxon & Waters, 2017). This is so-called normal drug use (Hammersley, 2005, 2011), a mode of use that is “not unusual, rare, or restricted to deviant subcultures”. Instead, it is drug use that is “integrated into the users’ lives and, to some extent, accommodated, tolerated or ignored by society”; perhaps most importantly, this type of use “is normal in the sense of involving patterns of activity that are not exclusively problematic and that can be explained by normal psychological and social processes. Drug use is not always the defining feature of drug users’ lives” (Hammersley, 2005, p. 201). The notion that drug use can be integrated more or less sustainably into otherwise largely orthodox lifestyles, and “the existence of normal patterns of drug use that do not verge upon or develop into the pathological remains questionable, even offensive, to many people” (Hammersley, 2005, p. 201). Nevertheless, the evidence that long-term users of illegal drugs can function perfectly happily as, for want of a better term, “mainstream citizens” (Cohen & Sas, 1994, p. 72), is increasingly providing something of a corrective to the decades-old “junkie” stereotype that still dominates popular discourse around drug users. Much of the “normal” drug use that is revealed in this body of work is “hidden”. Historically, the bulk of drugs research has attended to those who are engaged with the criminal justice system regarding their drug use, or those who are involved in drug treatment programmes of various kinds. Thus, there has been something of a blind spot regarding those individuals who use drugs quietly and unobtrusively and do not come to the attention of the authorities, and the overall picture of illegal drug use has been significantly distorted as a result. Recently, however, there has been a far greater recognition of hidden users who are not embroiled in legal and treatment structures of any kind and continue their illegal drug use away from the gaze of the authorities (Anderson & Levy, 2003; Notley, 2005; Shewan & Dalgarno, 2005; Warburton et al., 2005; Hathaway et al., 2010; Moxon & Waters, 2017). Such work is beginning to serve as a long overdue corrective to the somewhat skewed view of drug use that has been encouraged by the emphasis upon those who are somehow institutionalised (Plant, 1975). With these trends in mind, our own project focused on the illegal drug use of older adults whose use was hidden and normal. As a UK-based study, “illegal drugs” in this context referred to those substances that were listed as “controlled drugs” in the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 (as amended). It is noteworthy that the majority of our participants, though not all, were users of cannabis. There is a rapidly developing global dynamic regarding the legal status of this particular substance. For instance, Uruguay and Canada have fully legalised the cultivation, consumption, and sale of cannabis, with other countries moving at least some of the way down this path. However, there has been no change to the legal status of recreational cannabis in the United Kingdom since 2009, when it reverted to
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being a Class B substance after a short period in Class C, and the penalties for production, dealing, and possession became stiffer. We defined a “current” user of illegal drugs, and therefore somebody eligible to partake in the research, as an individual who had used an illegal substance at least once during the past year. “Older adults” were defined as those aged 40 and over; it is perhaps best to think of the “older” adults who partook in the study simply as being older than those who are conventionally studied in research of this nature; thus, they were older even though they may not have been old (Moxon & Waters, 2017, pp. 4–5). We defined a “hidden” user as one who was not in contact with either the criminal justice authorities or drug treatment agencies regarding their use. Thus, our participants were people using illegal drugs “under the radar” of the authorities. We did not discount those who had been involved with the criminal justice system or treatment agencies at some point in the past, although this did not apply to the vast majority of our participants. For our part, we were particularly keen to speak to individuals who were using illegal drugs “normally” and sustainably while getting on with their lives as ordinary citizens engaged in work, family, and the like. Although recruiting participants whose use was hidden did not guarantee this, it seemed to offer the best chance of success.
Before data collection: ethical protocols as integral to sample building Our interest in individuals whose illegal drug use was “hidden” meant that constructing a sample of participants was far from straightforward. Yet, inadvertently, our efforts at sample building revealed much to us about the importance of ethical principles and protocols. We adopted a form of “snowball sampling” for this phase of the work, a technique generally regarded as highly effective in enabling the study of populations who are difficult to reach or hidden (Atkinson & Flint, 2001). It is also considered an appropriate methodological tool when focusing on sensitive or private matters (Biernacki & Waldorf, 1981, p. 141). Snowball sampling has been used with some success in the study of illegal drug users, particularly younger users (Kaplan et al., 1987; Ditton & Hammersley, 1996; Griffiths et al., 1993; Hammersley et al., 2002; Notley, 2005; Potter & Dann, 2005; Shewan & Dalgarno, 2005), although not always without difficulties (Goode, 2000). Snowball sampling has also been used to build “community-based” samples of drug users (Cohen & Sas, 1994). The potential of snowball sampling to provide an effective means of building a sample of hidden older illegal drug users without relying on institutional referrals made it the obvious choice for this research. To this end, a non-probability, convenience sample of our hard to reach target population was sought from which we snowball sampled. We effectively utilised two of Zinberg’s recruitment techniques for snowball sampling. In Zinberg’s work, “researchers described the project to friends and colleagues who had some professional or personal contact with drug users, asking them to spread the word about the research and to refer to us anyone who might possibly be considered [appropriate]”. Following this process and the completion of interviews, “subjects
The ethics of researching “hard to reach” populations 103 who went through the interview process were asked to refer other drugs users who might be interested in participating” (1984, p. 8). Used in this manner, snowball sampling “has proved useful in generating samples of individuals who it would be difficult, if not impossible, to access in a more conventional way” (Griffiths et al., 1993, p. 1619). However, the construction of the sample proved far from straightforward (Waters, 2015; Moxon & Waters, 2017, pp. 27–41) and the research process was decidedly “messy” (Bell, 2004). Although locating suitable individuals was generally relatively unproblematic, persuading them to be interviewed was a different matter for they were understandably suspicious of our intentions. One particular episode brought this into sharp relief. A student of one of the research team who was involved in an organisation campaigning for the reform of cannabis laws agreed to help publicise the research and placed an advert on the organisation’s private Facebook page, with information about the research and a link to a previous article. Despite the fact that the research had been vouched for by a fellow member of the community in question, and been approved by the organisation’s local committee, within a few hours of the advert being placed a series of sceptical posts appeared: Whether this is anonymous or not, you are asking straight arrowed people, people who are already hiding their use of illegal substances, to admit that they have committed a crime. An admission here is also an admission to the police, an admission to the CPS, and an admission to the courts, and don’t forget that marijuana carries a prison sentence even for just possession. You should have tried to agree something like an amnesty from prosecution to protect people. That seems like an awful a lot of trust to put in a stranger. I don’t think that I would trust it to be honest . . . there is a chance that you also may end up being contacted by the police. . . . I’m just not prepared to take the risk I’m afraid. Don’t forget that some people here are professionals and they could lose their job quite easily at the mere mention of illegal drug use. Ian (46, unemployed, cannabis user), who did choose to participate in the study having seen the online advert in question, told us that he had discussed the advert with his friends and there was a suspicion “that it was a ploy by the police, or something like that, [a] sting operation type of thing [laughs]”. As outlandish as this may seem, there have been occasions when law enforcement authorities have attempted to access the data of scholarly researchers. For example, Fitzgerald and Hamilton’s (1996) work on illicit drug use in Australia led to them being approached by an undercover police officer who offered to introduce them to drug users in exchange for information. Occasionally, cases such as this even make the headlines; witness the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s dogged attempts to gain access to Boston College’s “Belfast project” tapes, in which former republican and loyalist paramilitaries discussed their involvement in the Troubles (McDonald, 2015; BBC News, 2019).
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In our case, in addition to these fears, there were a number of more prosaic reasons why potential participants were wary of becoming involved with the project. In the first place, as Notley (2005, p. 280) also found in her research on adult illegal drug users, “respondents were being asked to talk openly about a topic that they were normally accustomed to keeping hidden”. Notley held this to be the reason for her own difficulties with snowball sampling. In addition, as compared to the younger people who are the usual focus of studies of this nature, there is a sense that older adults often have more to lose when compared with younger people. For example, they are more likely to have stable jobs, families, and other ties to “mainstream” society that could be jeopardised by the admission of illegal drug use. Thus, it was doubly difficult to persuade potential participants to be interviewed because not only did they tend to keep the fact of their drug use hidden but they also had more to lose in the event of exposure; these were individuals who were “hidden by choice” (Noy, 2008, p. 331) and as such many of our difficulties were, frustratingly, by design. Furthermore, we as researchers were not part of the group being studied, which tends to hinder this type of sample building (Wright et al., 1992; Waters, 2016). This is because the trust between researcher and researched that is critical to the success of this type of sampling method (Berg, 1988; Faugier & Sargeant, 1997) is that much more difficult to nurture when the researcher is an “outsider” (see Duncan & Edwards, 1999, and Browne (2005) for instances where snowball sampling has worked well when the researcher is part of the group being studied). Finally, our research found that the hidden illegal drug use of older adults tends not to occur within well-defined social networks and that older users of drugs generally indulge in the home environment, either alone or with a very small number of close confidants (see also Waters, 2009; Moxon & Waters, 2010). As a result, this was a target population lacking the kind of well-defined networks that are amenable to the snowball sampling technique; trust engendered with one participant could not be easily transferred to a chain of further contacts, as those chains either did not exist or were flimsy in nature. Of course, it is not particularly surprising that “hard to reach populations are hard to reach” (Goodman, 2011, p. 350), and there is no “magic bullet” of a sampling technique that can change this fact. However, as we tried to construct our sample, a sense soon began to emerge that the clear and rigorous application of ethical protocols, and the communication of this to every potential participant, was critical in assuaging some of their understandable concerns and developing the necessary trust between researcher and researched. As participation in this particular study carried with it the possibility of serious negative legal and social consequences, it was incumbent on us as researchers to guard against this eventuality as far as possible. The precautions that we took to safeguard the interviewees from the risk of being “outed” had the incidental advantage of giving potential participants the confidence to engage with the study in the first place. Although the process of sample building was long and difficult, and had such precautions not been in place, then it seems likely that we would not have been able to build a sample at all.
The ethics of researching “hard to reach” populations 105 For example, it is widely accepted that, aside from a few special circumstances, participants in any research project should be properly informed about what they are being asked to undertake before they can agree to be involved. Informed consent is usually signified by having participants read and sign an information sheet, confirming that they understand what the research entails and that they agree to participate. However, in this case it was deemed inappropriate to have participants physically put their name to the research by signing something as formal as a consent sheet. Instead, the principles of implied consent were employed (Berg, 2001, p. 57). As such, potential participants were made fully aware that they would not be required to put their names on anything. They were provided with an information sheet and, having read it, they were asked if they had any questions concerning the research. Once these questions had been answered, consent was then inferred if the participant was still willing to take part in a recorded interview. In this way, no lasting record of participants’ names was kept by the researchers. The issues of confidentiality and anonymity also necessitated attention. The anonymity of participants could not be guaranteed as the very nature of a faceto-face interview requires the researcher to meet and speak to the participant, as well as hold some contact details, however temporarily. Telephone interviews are a little better in this regard but still require a conversation and the passing of contact details. In addition, participants revealed details of their lives that stretched back over many decades, and so anonymity was inevitably compromised. To counter this, measures were taken to ensure confidentiality as far as possible. For example, only the research team knew the name and identity of the participants. These details were not shared with anyone else. Participants were not asked for anything other than the bare minimum of information to arrange the interview, although some happily volunteered more. For most interviewees, we held a name, contact details, and an address, but in some instances, where interviews were arranged through a third party, only a first name was known. All these details were destroyed after the completion of the research. Again, at the recruitment stage it was made clear that we would not be retaining any details whatsoever (Zinberg, 1984, p. 9; Israel, 2004, p. 719). Initially, our intention was to carry out all interviews face-to-face, as we felt that this would facilitate the building of trust as well as aid our attempts to reassure. Participants were asked to select their preferred venue for the interview; most chose their home, some their office, and others a quiet pub. However, so many potential participants stated that they would only be willing to be interviewed remotely that, in the end, the decision was made to offer interviews by telephone or online videotelephony if the participant preferred. For us, this had the practical advantage of saving time and cost. For many of our participants, being physically distant from the interviewer served to assuage their concerns about meeting in person. It allowed them to feel more comfortable and in control; after all, this was their interview, and it was they who were revealing details of their engagement in illegal activities. Those participants who opted to be interviewed by online videotelephony rather than by telephone tended to make this choice to be able to see the interviewer, although only the audio output of the interview
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was recorded. These recordings were made on our own recording device, rather than through software functionality. In either case, remote interviewing gave the participant the option to terminate the interview at the touch of a button if they so wished. We conducted the research prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, but given the widespread adoption of this kind of technology as a result of the pandemic, we would expect remote interviewing to become an increasingly important tool in the arsenal of the social researcher.
During data collection: ethical protocols foster the gathering of richer data It became evident quite early in the data-gathering phase of the research that some participants, despite our reassurances, remained nervous about their participation in the study. There were some hesitant, halting interviews, repeated requests for further confirmation that the details they were providing would go no further, and some fairly obvious self-censorship, particularly when it came to discussing others who were or had been part of their drug-using circle. As a result, we took the decision to refocus the interviews a little. We reduced the emphasis on demographic and factual details, a section of the interview in which some of our questions used the same wording as used in the Crime Survey for England and Wales. On reflection, we felt that participants may have construed the demographic and factual questions as rather invasive and perhaps even as something akin to an “official” attempt to elicit sensitive information. Our intuition was to cede control of the interview process itself to the participants and allow them to take the lead on what they felt comfortable in revealing. As such, our approach was consistent with “rights based” justifications for confidentiality (Israel, 2004, p. 718). Instead, we foregrounded what had initially been the second part of the interview, where we explored the participants’ illegal drug careers in more detail through the use of broad, open-ended questions about past and present illegal drug use. The reasons behind and attitudes towards drug use were discussed, and participants were also asked about their future intentions. This part of the interview was loosely based on the “life story” interviewing method (McAdams, 1993), with some adaptations rendering it suitable for the purpose at hand. Such an approach has been used in other pieces of research into drug use, for instance, by Hammersley and Dalgarno (2013). By emphasising this part of the interview at the expense of the more formally structured demographic section, we provided interviewees considerable freedom to discuss all that was of importance and significance to them regarding their own drug use, and gave them greater control of what they chose to reveal and how they presented their life story to us. Participants were also told that they could decline to answer any question for any reason, and that they could stop the interview at any point. With one or two small exceptions where participants wished to avoid implicating others in breaking the law, all our questions were answered fully and no participant decided to stop the interview. Of course, the nature of the semi-structured interview itself mitigated against this possibility, for it was within the interviewees’ control to simply keep
The ethics of researching “hard to reach” populations 107 concealed that which they had no wish to discuss. Overall, while this was a subtle change of emphasis rather than a wholly new approach, we felt that affording participants this increased level of control was one way of helping to alleviate the risks involved in participation. For the most part, once they became comfortable with the format and realised that they were not to be the subject of something in the style of an interrogation, the participants seemed to enjoy the interview process. We detected a certain sense of satisfaction among our participants that they were assisting in the creation of knowledge about their often-ignored corner of the social world. As one participant put it, “it’s good that people are doing research on this, you know, . . . this is actually what we want to do, we want more of an open discussion about these things” (Winston, 58, academic, cannabis user). Another suggested that “it’s nice to feel like I’m part of something which sheds a little light on this, on this matter, you know if I’ve been useful in that then that’s brilliant” (Keith, 63, retired civil servant, cannabis user). In addition, once settled, most participants were happy to divulge intimate details regarding their life stories. At times, we were genuinely taken aback at the level of openness we encountered and some of the things that were disclosed to us. After all, even where somebody had vouched for us, we essentially remained strangers to the participants. Again, this suggested to us that there were incidental advantages to our adoption of rigorous ethical protocols. By partially ceding control of the interview process itself to the participants to reassure them and give them the freedom to choose what to reveal and what to keep hidden, our reward was an increased level of trust and an abundance of the type of richer, “thicker” data that is “so valued in the qualitative social sciences” (Noy, 2008, p. 334).
After data collection: ethical handling of data ensures the ongoing protection of participants over the long term The treatment of the data we had gathered following the completion of the primary research was, at the very least, equally as important as the ethical protocols we had adopted during the earlier stages of the work. We found ourselves as guardians of a wealth of data that could potentially incriminate our participants and lead to the kind of negative consequences that they had so assiduously striven to avoid for decades. We adopted various measures to try and prevent any incrimination. For instance, during transcription of the interviews, any information (such as a name, a place, or a company name) that could potentially contribute to the identification of a participant was changed such that the transcriptions could not be easily linked to an individual (Israel, 2004, p. 719). We also allocated all participants a code number and a pseudonym. Nevertheless, given the very finely detailed accounts of various stages of their lives that our participants furnished us with, it remains that participants may remain identifiable from their interview transcripts despite the removal of obvious identifiers. Of course, this cannot be avoided in research of this nature. As a result, rather than strive for the likely unattainable ideal of complete anonymity, we instead aimed for confidentiality
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as far as possible. Consequently, the proper handling of recordings and transcriptions became critical in ensuring that participants suffered no negative consequences from participation in the study. For instance, following Freidson (1978, p. 159) who suggested that all identifiers should be destroyed as soon as they are no longer necessary, we did not retain a list of any kind linking an identifiable individual back to their interview. Furthermore, the slow pace of the project as we laboriously constructed our sample meant that almost all the interviews were transcribed, anonymised as far as possible, and assigned a code number and pseudonym before the next interview took place. In consequence, there was no backlog of recordings awaiting transcription. We transcribed the interviews ourselves to protect the identity of participants from any third parties. This required a great deal of time and patience, but as well as maintaining confidentiality it also meant that we became extremely familiar with the data. Upon completion of the project, the recordings were deleted and the transcriptions are being stored securely with a view to eventual destruction once all research outputs have been written up. In addition to these measures, we were also careful not to discuss any information we were given during interviews with other participants or with the contacts who had helped to set up interviews. We maintained this policy even where participants knew each other (as in the case of the “snowball” interviews that took place) or where they were close friends with a contact who had acted as a “gobetween”. For those who were interested, we were willing to share our general impressions of what we had found to date. As noted earlier, we also destroyed all the personal details we collected during the earlier phases of the project, be they names, addresses, contact details, and the like. We had briefly contemplated holding on to some details to potentially conduct a follow-up study at a later point, but we decided that, on balance and given that nobody had agreed to be part of a long-term project, we preferred to ensure the traceability of our participants was eliminated as far as practically possible (Israel, 2004, p. 719). These measures offered further protection to our participants for they minimised the chances, as far as possible, of them experiencing negative consequences resulting from being involved in the study. As such, they helped us to make good on the assurances we had given them initially when they were contemplating whether or not to take part, and were therefore consistent with “fidelity based” justifications for confidentiality (Israel, 2004, p. 718). Of course, as Atkinson and Flint (2001) have suggested, assurances of this type only really carry any weight after time has elapsed; we would hope that our participants recognise the diligence with which we approached these matters and that they have grown increasingly comfortable with the fact of their participation in the study.
Concluding thoughts Our experience in conducting research on older drug users suggests to us that the adoption of a rigorous set of ethical protocols can be of benefit on more than one level. First, it is absolutely essential that participants are afforded the protection that only properly designed and properly conducted studies, which put ethical
The ethics of researching “hard to reach” populations 109 protocols at their heart, can provide. This is especially the case in projects such as the one detailed here, where the participants were being asked to discuss their involvement in a sensitive and illegal activity, with potentially significant consequences in the event of them being “outed”. There is no pressing need for anything particularly innovative or novel, for there already exists a toolbox of tried and tested safeguards, but it is critically important that they are deployed conscientiously, and that researchers are seen to be working in an ethically informed manner and not merely paying lip service to ethical ideals. Second, as we have seen repeatedly, ethical protocols can also contribute to the overall success of the research project at hand. In our case, without the utilisation of a set of clearly communicated ethical protocols, it is unlikely that we would have been able to successfully build a sample in the first place, or collect the type of rich, qualitative data that we were seeking. This is because participants who are reassured by the ethical credentials of a particular study are far more likely to take part, far more likely to do so with genuine confidence and zeal, and far more likely to recommend others who meet the criteria for inclusion. Thus, the adoption of an ethical approach that seeks to protect participants as its foremost aim carries with it a set of incidental but still potentially crucial advantages. In addition, as we have hinted at in the previous sections, studies conducted in an ethical manner have the potential to offer benefits on a further, third level. We would speculate that the rigorous employment of ethical protocols in a study has the potential to assist, however subtly and intangibly, the wider community of scholarly researchers. This is, perhaps, particularly so of those continuing and open-ended efforts at protection that endure long after the process of data collection itself is completed. Israel (2004, p. 718), outlining the consequentialist case for confidentiality, suggests that “researchers who break confidences might not only make it more difficult for themselves to continue researching but, by damaging the possibility that potential participants will trust researchers, might also disrupt the work of other social scientists”. We would add that the inverse of this is also true; the willingness of target populations to participate in research, and to do so in an enthusiastic spirit of cooperation, might well be aided by the steady accretion of trust won over time by ethically conducted studies that do not result in negative consequences for the participants. Of course, this is not something that can be easily measured, but we would at least hope that our participants, after their own experience of being research subjects and witnessing first hand the diligence with which we treated ethical issues, would be happy to consider taking part in future studies to help “shed a little light” on the social world, as Keith (63, retired civil servant, cannabis user) put it in his interview. Conceived in this way, ethical safeguards and procedures can ultimately be seen as valuable on three distinct levels: they protect participants, they can contribute to the success of the research project at hand, and they can potentially augment the wider acceptance and vitality of criminological and social scientific research. As such, ethical considerations, far from being an afterthought or an exercise in box-ticking, are better conceived of as helping to foster an ethical gestalt in which criminological and social scientific research is accepted and embraced. Viewed in
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this light the countless, tiny, often unseen, ethical actions that are taken in individual research projects every single day are revealed as critical to the overall and ongoing health of the entire field of social research.
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The ethics of researching “hard to reach” populations 111 Goode, S. (2000). Researching a hard – to – access and vulnerable population: Some considerations on researching drug and alcohol – using mothers. Sociological Research Online, 5(1). Goodman, L. A. (2011). Comment: On respondent – driven sampling and snowball sampling in hard – to – reach populations and snowball sampling not in hard – to – reach populations. Sociological Methodology, 41(1), 347–353. Griffiths, P., Gossop, M., Powis, B., & Strang, J. (1993). Researching hidden populations of drug users by privileged access interviewers: Methodological and practical issues. Addiction, 88(12), 1617–1626. Hammersley, R. (2005). Theorizing normal drug use (editorial). Addiction Research and Theory, 13(3), 201–203. Hammersley, R. (2011). Developing a sociology of normal substance use (invited editorial). International Journal of Drug Policy, 22(6), 413–414. Hammersley, R., & Dalgarno, P. (2013). Trauma and recovery amongst people who have injected drugs within the past five years. Scottish Drugs Forum. Hammersley, R., Khan, F., & Ditton, J. (2002). Ecstasy and the rise of the chemical generation. Routledge. Hathaway, A. D. (1997a). Marijuana and tolerance: Revisiting Becker’s sources of control. Deviant Behavior, 18(2), 103–124. Hathaway, A. D. (1997b). Marijuana and lifestyle: Exploring tolerable deviance. Deviant Behavior, 18(3), 213–232. Hathaway, A. D., Hyshka, E., Erickson, P. G., Asbridge, M., Brochu, S., Cousineau, M. M., Duff, C., & Marsh, D. (2010). Whither RDS? An investigation of respondent driven sampling as a method of recruiting mainstream marijuana users. Harm Reduction Journal, 7(15), 15–26. Home Office. (2015a). Drug misuse: Findings from the 2014/15 Crime Survey for England and Wales. London: Home Office. Israel, M. (2004). Strictly confidential? Integrity and the disclosure of criminological and socio-legal research. British Journal of Criminology, 44(5), 715–740. Kaplan, C. D., Korf, D., & Sterk, C. (1987). Temporal and social contexts of heroin – using populations: An illustration of the snowball sampling technique. Journal of Mental and Nervous Disorders, 175(9), 566–574. Lazar, K. (2010, February 8). As pot – smoking, pill – popping baby boomers age, new health problems may arise. The Boston Globe. www.boston.com/news/health/articles/2010/02/08/illicit_drug_use_among_baby_boomers_is_on_the_rise_as_are_long_ term_health_concerns/ McAdams, D. (1993). The stories we live by: Personal myths and the making of the self. William Morrow. McDonald, H. (2015, January 24). IRA gunmen face arrest over Boston College Belfast Project tapes. The Guardian. www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/jan/24/ ira-gunmen-face-arrest-boston-college-belfast-project-tapes Moxon, D., & Waters, J. (2010). ‘I don’t know just where I’m going’: Older adult drug users, illegal leisure and broken narratives. International Journal of Crime, Criminal Justice and Law, 5(1–2), 81–98. Moxon, D., & Waters, J. (2017). Illegal drug use through the lifecourse: A study of ‘hidden’ older users. Routledge. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020). Substance use in older adults drug facts. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health. www.
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drugabuse.gov/download/38029/substance-use-in-older-adults-drugfacts.pdf?v=48a4a4 d82d3e5cd7352a59c5bad12f0f Notley, C. (2005). Four groups of illicit substance users amongst the adult ‘hidden’ non – problematic community. Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy, 12(4), 279–290. Noy, C. (2008). Sampling knowledge: The hermeneutics of snowball sampling in qualitative research. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 11(4), 327–344. Office for National Statistics. (2020). Drug misuse in England and Wales: Year ending March 2020. Author. Pearson, G. (2001). Normal drug use: Ethnographic fieldwork among an adult network of recreational drug users in inner London. Substance Use and Misuse, 36(1–2), 167–200. Plant, M. A. (1975). Drug takers in an English town. British Journal of Criminology, 15(2), 181–186. Potter, G., & Dann, S. (2005). Urban crop circles: Urban cannabis growers in the north of England. In W. Palacios (Ed.), Cocktails and dreams: Perspectives on drug and alcohol use (pp. 89–109). Pearson. Roxby, P. (2010, September 12). Ageing drug addicts ‘face chronic health problems.’ BBC News. www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-11262369 Shewan, D., & Dalgarno, P. (2005). Evidence for controlled heroin use? Low levels of negative health and social outcomes among non – treatment heroin users in Glasgow (Scotland). British Journal of Health Psychology, 10(1), 33–48. Stephens, R. (1991). The street addict role. State University of New York Press. Sullum, J. (2003). Saying yes: In defense of drug use. Tarcher/Penguin. Warburton, H., Turnbull, P. J., & Hough, M. (2005). Occasional and controlled heroin use: Not a problem? Joseph Rowntree Foundation. Waters, J. (2009). Illegal drug use among older adults. Unpublished doctoral thesis. Sheffield: The University of Sheffield. Waters, J. (2015). Snowball sampling: A cautionary tale involving a study of older drug users. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 18(4), 367–380. Waters, J. (2016). How biography influences research: An autoethnography. British Journal of Community Justice, 14(2), 45–60. Williams, L., & Askew, R. (2016). Maturing on a high: Prevalence, patterns and trends in recreational drug use in adulthood. In T. Kolind, B. Thom, & G. Hunt (Eds.), The SAGE handbook of drug and alcohol studies: Social science approaches (Vol. 1, pp. 445–466). SAGE. Winick, C. (1962). Maturing out of narcotic addiction. UN Office on Drugs and Crime Bulletin on Narcotics, 14(1), 1–7. Wright, R., Decker, S., Redfern, A., & Smith, D. (1992). A snowball’s chance in hell: Doing fieldwork with active residential burglars. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 29(2), 148–161. Zinberg, N. (1984). Drug, set, and setting: The basis for controlled intoxicant use. Yale University Press.
The keepers of secrets Ethics and the emotional labour of working with privileged populations during criminological research Kate Lowe and Alexandra Ridgway
Introduction Are you not just ever frightened to get totally drunk? I mean, like completely smashed and then everything you know just comes tumbling out? You’re like a walking vault with everyone’s secrets in. (laughing). If this ever happens can you make sure I am there? – (Lowe’s observation notes from conversation with Sue, September 2018)
This excerpt was taken from Lowe’s field notes which she wrote during her observation research into cocaine use and supply in Hong Kong (Lowe, 2020). It was 4:00 am, and she was standing outside one of the city’s most exclusive nightclubs having a cigarette with a participant, Sue, when this comment was made. Of all the late-night conversations during her observations, this one has always remained with her. It struck a chord because it was true. Lowe’s greatest fear as a researcher was breaching confidentiality. As criminologists, we hold positions of privilege, as our participants kindly allow us to explore the hidden and often legally sensitive parts of their lives. Our research enables us to delve deeper into our participants’ lives and situate these often-hidden aspects within their everyday activities and privileged narratives in Hong Kong. Building such close connections means we are often told secrets – those relating to the fieldwork and those which fall outside of our original research aims. For example, during our fieldwork we were made privy to breaches of law including previous crimes committed, experiences of victimisation, abortions, self-harm, health diagnoses, financial issues, habits and addiction, infidelity and thoughts of politics, race, and sexuality. As researchers, we were and still are bound by confidentiality, so that while we have had the opportunity to peek into and share our participants’ lives momentarily, we must also protect this information after the research project’s presumed end and in ways that move us beyond the ethical constraints of research committees. Through these extended processes of upholding confidentiality, researchers must create and maintain an enduring bond of trust with participants through ongoing concealment of sensitive and sometimes criminal information. Yet the DOI:10.4324/9781003241515-9
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process of keeping secrets creates emotional labour on the researcher’s part during and beyond the research field itself, and it is this point we will elaborate in this chapter. Historically, criminological research has focused on marginalised communities in the “street” as opposed to the “suite” (Hagan, 1994). While academia has documented how researching marginalised groups and/or sensitive topics can cause investigators to face “emotionally disturbing situations through data collection and analysis” (Fenge et al., 2019, p. 1), it is only recently that this has been examined in relation to criminologists who study the elite (Lancaster, 2017; Coetzee, 2020). We build upon this new interest by drawing upon our experiences as two researchers who examined legally sensitive issues in Hong Kong between 2015 and 2019 among privileged members of the city’s expatriate community who held social, cultural, and economic capital afforded to them by Hong Kong’s post-colonial power structures. Lowe’s (2020) ethnographic research comprised over 100 hours of participants’ observation of cocaine use and supply and in-depth interviews with users (n32) exploring recreational cocaine use and supply among the privileged expatriates in Hong Kong. Ridgway’s (2020) project, on the other hand, explored how arriving by dependent visa shaped the family and personal lives of migrant wives in Hong Kong (n25), most of whom were expatriates, and who experienced marital breakdown after arrival. In a socio-legal study, Ridgway’s research interrogated the role of the dependent visa in situating these women in positions of legal insecurity while also discovering how it increased their risk of victimisation, particularly in terms of family violence. While we investigated different research topics, we were connected geographically by the location of our research – Hong Kong – and methodologically by our roles as researchers within the close-knit, privileged expatriate community. We also became “secrets keepers” within this environment – a role in which maintaining the confidentiality of our participants became paramount. This was not only because of the closeness of the expatriate community where any exposure could spread quickly but also due to the legally fragile positions that many Hong Kong-based expatriates hold, in which concealing certain activities and circumstances is essential to them remaining in the Territory. Our goal in this chapter is to reveal the importance of keeping secrets to criminological research. Keeping secrets is a process of risk management and one which entails significant emotional labour on behalf of the researcher who undertakes it. This is especially true for those who remain in the community long term where risks of disclosure are increased and can have more damaging effects for both the research participants and researchers alike. It is also vital for the continuation of research endeavours in the community – maintaining confidentiality upholds participant trust and increases the likelihood that they will engage in research projects again in the future. While we use this chapter to claim that the emotional labour of “secrets keeping” undertaken by all researchers needs greater recognition, we argue that this is especially important in criminological research where the subject matter is often legally sensitive. We further contend that the difficulties of secret keeping increase in certain research environments,
The keepers of secrets 115 including close-knit communities, and that there is a need for further explorations of how different contexts demand different approaches to maintaining confidentiality. From a practice perspective, we point to the need to acknowledge not only that secret keeping is performed by criminologists but also that there needs to be greater conversations regarding best practice protocols and support systems to ensure this role is effectively carried out.
Criminological research and emotional risks There is growing concern about researcher safety, especially their management of physical and legal risks during the research process (Parker & O’Reilly, 2013). Yet the role of emotions is also of importance to discussions of research and risk. This is both in terms of how research may emotionally affect the researcher as well as how emotions impact the research process (Brannan, 2014). Nevertheless, the relevance of emotions to research-based risks is often disregarded or underestimated (Vincett, 2018). Concurrently, academic institutions’ research ethics policies tend to focus on the legal and/or physical risks to a researcher in the field as well as their role in minimising the risks to their respondents (Ellsberg & Heise, 2002). Little weight is given by ethics boards to those risks relating to the emotional well-being or mental health of the researcher (Melrose, 2002) and, for some researchers, the likelihood of unexpectedly encountering information that is emotionally distressing during the research process is not covered by the ethics process (Cook, 2020) or, if it is, this is to safeguard the respondents (Dickson-Swift et al., 2005). The emphasis of ethics committees on respondents over researchers may be due to university concerns regarding protecting themselves legally or presumptions that the researcher themselves are best placed to identify, navigate, and respond to their own emotional risks while in the field. Yet despite the why, often the practicalities of how to cope with an emotionally provoking event are limited, leaving researchers unprepared (Vincett, 2018). Graduate students and early career researchers may be “especially at risk, as they are often more concerned with the methodology and response rate than ensuring their own safety” (Sharp & Kremer, 2006, p. 321). Moreover, they may feel their first experience of fieldwork is a rite of passage, where they must prove their worth as researchers (Lee, 1995). Tied up with positivist notions of researcher objectivity and remaining neutral (Lecocq, 2002), researchers may also not express or discuss emotions or engage in personal reflection out of fears that this may contaminate the data (Punch, 1986). Emotions, and their importance to the risks involved in research, remain very much hidden, obscured by administrative processes as well as researcher insecurities. However, there are movements underway to bring these affective aspects to light. Scholars have begun considering the emotional impacts involved in “doing” research (Pio & Singh, 2016). Those who are researching marginalised populations (Meloni, 2020), sensitive topics (Fenge et al., 2019), and/or criminal and deviant activities (Brougham & Uttley, 2017) have been particularly vocal about the importance of considering these emotional risks. Researchers may feel
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vulnerable when listening to challenging descriptions of personal circumstances (Ballamingie & Johnson, 2011) and the process of transcribing potentially distressing or sensitive data can result in secondary distress (Kiyimba & O’Reilly, 2016). Even seasoned researchers may not be ready for the emotional issues which may arise in distressing field sites (Melrose, 2002) with some researchers experiencing compassion fatigue, burnout, secondary or vicarious trauma, or posttraumatic stress disorder (see Warden, 2013) with the consequence sometimes being a reluctance to engage or revisit data (Melrose, 2002). There is also the potential risk that the researcher’s own emotional response may detrimentally impact the participant themselves if not adequately addressed – a risk which has encouraged some scholars to proactively participate in counselling and journaling as preventative measures (see Rager, 2005). The emotional risks which researchers face are thus varied and extensive and can have serious implications if left unacknowledged. Turning specifically to criminological research, Brougham and Uttley’s (2017) research of criminologist ethnographers found the two most frequently reported risks to be emotional risk and emotional stress. For 44% (n137) of these ethnographers, this manifested itself in feelings of emotional trauma, isolation, depression, anger, anxiety, concern, and frustration. Criminologists have experienced emotional distress during the process of being in the field or collecting data. Vanderstayy’s (2005) first fieldwork experience when researching gangs resulted in feelings of guilt and secondary trauma caused by entering the field unprepared and with no emotional support in place. Miller’s (1987) research on street hustlers brought up feelings of anger and depression and Liebling (1999) noted how experiences of interviewing prisoners were “harrowing” and “traumatic” (p150). For criminologists, entering unfamiliar locations and environments can lead to feelings of stress and apprehension (Jamieson, 2000) such as when they feel the need to be constantly alert, for instance when engaging with police (Van Maanen, 1988). Fear and feelings of paranoia also present themselves in the aftermath of dealing with threatening encounters (Price-Glynn, 2010). While in some of these circumstances, threats present themselves as imminent or highly likely, in others, no major harm eventuates (Goldsmith, 2003). Nevertheless, the apprehension of what might happen can still emotionally affect the criminologist – a point we will return to later in this chapter.
Criminological research and emotional labour Criminologists, like other social scientists, perform significant emotional labour during the research process. In a special issue on the emotional labour of criminologists, Waters et al. (2020) highlight how “social researchers, engaging particularly in primary qualitative research, are expected to control their own, and others, feelings and emotions, requiring the performance of emotional labour” (1). However, the emotional labour carried out by criminologists is not unrelated to the emotional risks of research previously discussed (Fohring, 2020). Acknowledgment of the psychological and emotional risks involved in conducting criminological research has been key to the emotional labour of researchers
The keepers of secrets 117 being recognised (Dickson-Swift et al., 2009). One way emotional labour occurs is in how research risks are managed – these being risks to the participants, the researchers themselves, and the project more broadly (Bergman Blix & Wettergren, 2015). For instance, emotional labour can be seen in how the researcher designs and administers their project with the goals of avoiding the re-traumatisation of participants (Beck & Britto, 2006) and prevention of the researcher’s own vicarious trauma (Coles et al., 2014). Researchers thus take on emotional labour to prevent emotional risks from arising, but they also do so to try and resolve these risks when they do eventuate. Criminological examinations of the transaction between emotional labour and emotional risks have often centred upon the most obvious stages of research, these being fieldwork and data analysis. The emotional work of researchers to, for instance, manage sensitive interview processes is one example of how emotional risks and emotional labour intersect. These difficult interviews can unsettle researchers emotionally, but they may conceal such emotional disturbances to maintain a professional interaction in which the researchers’ own emotions do not overtake the interview exchange. Looking back at her experiences of researching juvenile prostitution, Melrose (2002) argued that regulating researcher emotions is a form of “labour pain” (333) which she undertook to “avoid ‘shocking’ participants with my ‘shock’” (347). Yet such emotional labour is not only restricted to the fieldwork stage of criminological research. Moran and Asquith (2020) reveal how the “bidirectional relationship” (9) between emotional labour and emotional risks (in their case, the risk of vicarious trauma) can arise during the coding and analysis processes. In doing so, they assert that there is a need for researchers to remain continuously reflexive even after their fieldwork is complete, so that any such emotional risks can be both identified and resolved. There are, however, certain research processes where the involvement of emotional risks and emotional labour remains underexamined. The maintenance of confidentiality, which is essential for research ethics, is one such example. Participants often “reveal secrets about themselves, their peers or organisations for very little reward” (Israel, 2004, p. 19) enabling researchers to gain unique data and information which might otherwise be unattainable. In addition to making a research project ethically sound, promising confidentiality allows such secretive data to be gained. After all, participants might be reluctant to share information or participate if they feel it will be freely shared with third parties outside of the scope of the research and/or not anonymised (O’Neil, 1996). This is especially important in the context of criminological research where such disclosure may result in serious consequences for the participants such as loss of employment, reputation within community, or legal/criminal sanctions. Ensuring confidentiality also demonstrates a respect for the participant with rapport, trust, and confidentiality being the ethical cornerstones of researching sensitive topics and illegal activities. Confidentiality may not create an instant trusting relationship, but it does provide the foundations, creating an environment where the participant can be assured that what is discussed will remain secret, anonymised, and within the parameters of the research.
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While criminologists recognise the importance of ensuring privacy within research, guaranteeing that it will occur can be complicated. Confidentiality within research interactions does not possess the same legal protection as those that take place with doctors, psychologists, and lawyers. Researchers working in criminology have faced external pressures from police to breach confidentially (Polsky, 1969). Some criminologists have resisted such expectations by offering unlimited confidentiality (see Adler & Adler, 2002; Ogden, 1994) resulting in lengthy court battles (Ogden, 1994). Other researchers have suggested it is unethical for the researcher to offer full confidentiality to participants as it “falsely constructs the role of a martyr” (Stone, 2002, p. 26). Outside of legal risks, researchers have discussed the repercussions of breaching confidentiality on their reputation such as being labelled a “grass” (informer to criminal agencies) in the research field. This can destroy participant trust (Yates, 2004) and the researcher’s ability to access the community in the future which can also have the trickle-on effect of preventing other researchers from accessing the field. Researchers are obliged to uphold confidentiality in perpetuity, a situation which validates Thorneycroft’s (2020) point that research “never has smooth nor absolute end points” (2). Ensuring confidentiality for such a long period – a situation which can be complicated by external pressures – is a burden researchers carry to ensure that research ethics are upheld and yet, the emotional labour and emotional risks they perform in doing so remain mostly overlooked.
Protocols and practices: defining and creating research boundaries concerning confidentiality Given the illegal nature of Lowe’s research focus, and how Ridgway’s study engaged with legally sensitive issues, we were sure to include extensive research protocols in our project designs and ethics applications which followed best practice. These were prepared to meet the requirements of the Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC) of the University of Hong Kong whose primary purpose is to ensure that data are collected ethically and that risk of harm to the participants (direct or indirect) is minimised. For both of us, a primary aim in preparing for the field was to ensure we had systems in place to protect participant confidentiality. Given the focus of Lowe’s research (drug use and supply), the degree to which she was able to reassure her users about the confidentiality of their identity had a critical and immediate effect on their participation. The promise of confidentiality also influenced the quality and reliability of their data along with their willingness to recruit further participants. Drawing upon previous ethnographic research in drug use and supply (see Becker, 1953; Adler, 1993) and in-depth interviews in the area (Zinberg, 1984), Lowe went to great lengths to create procedures during data collection to safeguard the confidentiality of participants during and beyond fieldwork such as •
Subjects remained anonymous and no real names or any other identifying information were disclosed to anyone, even my supervisor.
The keepers of secrets 119 • •
Participants were asked to change their name and other identifying information concerning other people or places they might discuss. Should they fail or forget to do so, the researcher corrected this during the transcription. When transcribing the interviews, care was taken to change or generalise specific facts, ensuring that readers who may know the respondents could not identify them. Adaptations were made to work locations, favourite bars, and hangouts. Participants were given a code name, and transcripts were kept in a password-protected file and locked drawer. Interviews were recorded, transcribed, and deleted within 48 hours. Respondents were sent a message or called to be informed this had taken place. No information disclosed by one participant was communicated to another participant, even if the participant had referred the others and was aware of other interviews conducted. (Lowe, 2020, p. 91)
At the beginning of each interview, Lowe discussed the procedures with each participant. The notes taken during interviews were shredded after transcription. For observations, direct audio recording and note-taking were untenable as observations were carried out in busy nightclubs and private bars. Instead, voice recordings were used to write field notes the following day. Once the field notes were complete, any recordings were deleted and the same procedures for confidentiality when transcribing interviews were adopted. Open and frank discussion concerning confidentiality resulted in a high participation rate with only two of the individuals approached declining to take part and one refusing to be tape-recorded during the interview due to confidentiality concerns. Upholding confidentiality was equally as important for Ridgway whose research on the experiences of women who migrated to Hong Kong by dependent visa but subsequently divorced often involved collecting data which was legally sensitive as these women relied upon their marriages for their migration status and separation put this at risk. Furthermore, some of these women’s stories had other victimological dimensions such as instances of family violence, sexual assault, child abuse, and child kidnapping. Because of the legal complexities in these women’s lives, it was even more essential to ensure their confidentiality. Ridgway adopted several similar processes to Lowe such as participant de-identification and use of pseudonyms for names and places; processes for preventing either online or physical access to the data; and participant choice regarding audio recording of interviews. Yet extra measures were taken for participants who held uncommon backgrounds in terms of nationality or dual nationality combinations which could identify them in the small expatriate community of Hong Kong. Here, Ridgway removed or manipulated these nationalities, such as by broadening their backgrounds to reference their region of origin rather than the participant’s specific country. Like in Lowe’s work, Ridgway’s participants too feared legal consequences from sharing their data as many were still embroiled in legal matters. The participants often feared that, if identified, the data shared during the interview could
Kate Lowe and Alexandra Ridgway
be used in legal proceedings. As a result of such concerns, Ridgway engaged with a process of “member checking” (Lincoln & Guba, 1985) where participants were given the opportunity to review the transcripts and make changes to the content that they deemed necessary to guarantee their privacy. While some participants accepted the complete transcript that Ridgway drafted, others edited their transcripts closely and, interestingly, these decisions could often be traced to the legal complexity of a particular woman’s situation. For instance, one of Ridgway’s participants “Jane” remained fearful of her husband after years of a violent marriage followed by his post-divorce threats of kidnapping the children. His unpredictability made her cautious about research participation and keen to check the transcript closely for any information which may risk her identification. Upholding confidentiality held great importance in how we both designed and conducted our research but our development of procedures to minimise the legal and emotional risks to our participants did not end there. We developed various protocols to reduce the likelihood of harms to our participants. For instance, Lowe was requested by HREC to provide a list of rehabilitation services and emotional distress hotlines for participants to reach should they encounter any discomfort from the matters discussed in the interview. This information was placed on the back of the participants’ copy of the consent form, and attention was drawn to it in the pre-interview discussion. Ridgway also designed the project with the goal of reducing the emotional risks of participation. For instance, she did not interview participants until at least 6 months after their separation to ensure they had a chance to process their relationship loss. Furthermore, she conducted a preliminary conversation with all eligible interviewees to explain the project and discuss how emotionally challenging such discussions could be so that participants could consider whether they were emotionally ready to participate. While we both took significant steps to assess and circumnavigate risks in the field, little thought was given to our own emotional risks and the stresses of conducting fieldwork, undertaking data analysis and indefinitely carrying out our research responsibilities as “secrets keepers” beyond the project’s assumed end. While we had felt well prepared to enter the field, we were not ready for all the challenges involved in keeping the secrets of our informants or the emotional labour this would place us under.
In the field: blurring and defending boundaries of confidentiality While in the field, our practices and protocols largely worked well with regard to protecting the confidentiality of participants and the data itself. However, in some instances, we felt we were constantly undergoing a process of defining and defending the boundaries of confidentiality within our projects to avoid breaches, a situation which was made complicated due to working in the expatriate bubble. At times, Lowe’s boundaries of when she was and was not collecting data became blurred. She lived and socialised in the expatriate bubble, and the lines between fieldwork and personal life were not as clearly defined as in the textbook
The keepers of secrets 121 examples she had read. While data from participant interviews and observations on drug use and supply were clearly ring-fenced by ethics and confidentiality, Lowe found that, during her 17 months of participant observation, she became party to some of her participants’ lives. In addition to observing their cocaine use and supply, she also attended weddings, birthday parties, and brunches. Attending these events enabled Lowe to situate their cocaine use in their lives and some of the most valuable data were gathered in these moments. But these were also the times when her participants shared other elements of their lives such as abortion, infertility, mental health concerns, and financial issues, among others. Participants often expressed anxiety after revealing such personal information and were keen to know that it would too be kept confidential. While being privy to this information enabled Lowe to further develop trust, such matters were not the focus of the research. Nevertheless, for Lowe, any information shared by participants or witnessed within those 17 months whether relevant to the research or not, became confidential. Even though it was not a requirement according to ethics board standards, it was practically easier for Lowe to maintain this boundary than pick and choose. Her participants referred to this as the “HKU Vault” and often used the term to reaffirm that what they were about to share was in confidence but should also be anonymised in field notes used for research purposes. For Lowe, this highlighted the limitation of ethics boards to understand the practicalities of such research and the need for a wider scope of confidentiality when researching criminal activity within a small community. While the situation for Ridgway was more clear-cut since she only performed interviews and not observations, she still had occasions when boundaries became blurred. For example, when attending an expatriate event, she bumped into one of her participants (“Madeline”) and, chose to approach the interaction as though she was meeting a stranger for the first time. However, Madeline decided to use the opportunity to publicly announce that she had participated in Ridgway’s study. To make the social interaction seamless, Ridgway followed Madeline’s lead by responding positively to her disclosure (nodding, smiling) but did not verbally add anything further to the conversation. In this way, she performed the emotional labour of “face-work” during which she sought to use balanced facial expressions – ones which upheld social politeness, suited the interaction and context, and fitted with her identity as a researcher and role as someone who would uphold confidentiality: a secrets keeper (see Goffman, 1967; Chan et al., 2018; Archer & Jagodziński, 2018). Both Ridgway and Lowe defended their participants’ confidentiality while in the field and during the process of writing up their findings. Within the field, the need to protect boundaries of confidentiality often came from unexpected sources such as curious bystanders, “gossips” and, at times, the participants themselves. For Lowe, dangers of breaching confidentiality came from being present in the field and performing fieldwork within the expatriate bubble where she lived and socialised. Although ethics boards did not require her to gain consent of those she observed, nevertheless many of the participants Lowe observed were aware of her research and that she was observing as interviewees invited her on nights out
Kate Lowe and Alexandra Ridgway
where cocaine was used and supplied. Despite participants’ awareness of her role, while observing Lowe tried to remain invisible and adopted a strategy of “social shrinkage” so as to not influence the field. Yet at times she bumped into friends and associates (outside of the research) during observations, and they were keen to know if she was researching or simply on a night out with a friend. Experiencing such encounters led Lowe to have ready a “suitably vague back story” for these chance encounters in an effort not to “out” participants as cocaine users and she was quick to ask users’ consent for others to join the night enabling them to express their agency. The greatest challenges, however, came from the participants themselves. Using a snowball technique enabled Lowe to develop her sample with relatively ease. At times, however, it presented challenges when users who had referred friends were keen to make sure she had secured the interview and/or sought to discuss the interview. Some grew frustrated when Lowe refused to confirm or discuss the contents of other participants’ interviews or share general gossip of who she had interviewed (or not) or who used what with whom. At times participants felt, given they had shared confidential information or referred someone, that they had a right to the data. This was particularly common with participants who were in a relationship or from the same user group. This left certain participants frustrated with the process with one noting it was “all one way with you, you’re no fun” (“Karen”). Some users saw Lowe as a source of gossip, information, and “dirt”. For others, it was a game to see when, how much and under what circumstances she would break confidentiality. Others were frustrated by the process and believed it illustrated Lowe’s lack of trust in them. At other times, such protocols gave participants comfort that their data would be treated with the same high threshold. Ridgway’s decision to defend the confidentiality of her participants to a higherthan-expected degree also resulted from external attempts at procuring private participant information. At a gathering of friends, an expatriate woman who she had only just met (and was also a suitable candidate for the study) started asking detailed questions about participant demographics. At first Ridgway thought this prospective interviewee was trying to ascertain the selection criteria of participants to see if she qualified, but it soon became clear that she was trying to uncover other factors to expose the women who had already contributed. This interaction revealed to Ridgway that even pseudonyms and the obscuring of more obvious identifying factors (such as workplaces and residential locations) were not enough to protect her participants within this tight-knit community and was what encouraged her to also obscure uncommon nationalities and other rare traits.1 As researchers, we hide information through the process of keeping secrets while also building trust with people in the field. Perhaps a justified obfuscation, but as researchers we do divert questions, refuse to answer, fudge, or distract to maintain confidentiality. As has been illustrated earlier, there were limited times in the field when we were asked (intentionally or unintentionally) to breach the confidentiality of our participants. These requests often stemmed from curiosity about our research and, on occasion, a need to fuel community gossip. Yet despite our experiences blurring and defending boundaries of confidentiality, we
The keepers of secrets 123 both remained tight-lipped about our participants and the contents of our research data. The emotional labour we experienced during such encounters came from the threat of breaching confidentiality and the process of maintaining the boundaries themselves. These instances revealed how fragilely guarantees of confidentiality are held, even when researchers have put all the recommended protocols in place and are utterly committed to maintaining their participants’ privacy. The effort involved in avoiding threats such as these, as well as the anxieties they provoked, underscored our emotional labour, with the risk management of our projects driving us to always be hyper-alert, both during the official collection of research data and long after the project had, theoretically, concluded.
The keeper of secrets: the emotional consequences of secret keeping While Lowe was determined to uphold the confidentiality of her participants, she had not envisaged the emotional cost it would take to keep them hidden. Given the nature of cocaine use and supply, Lowe’s observations were largely opportunistic, and she frequently found her regular nights out in nightclubs would transition into unanticipated fieldwork as people began to use or supply cocaine. While this presented her with ample opportunities for observation and participant recruitment, at times, Lowe felt as though she was “always on” and had to be ready to gather data when the opportunities presented themselves. As Lowe became more entrenched in her fieldwork, she found the secrets she held, although small, slowly began to take more space in her life through her daily interaction in and outside of the field. She felt she became isolated and withdrawn when she did engage with friends outside of the research or the participants as simple questions such as “how was your day?” or “how is research going?” became a minefield to navigate and she frequently faced potential opportunities to breach confidentiality given the close community she researched and socialised in. At times, Lowe felt as though she was continually doing mental gymnastics to keep confidential what her participants had told her and experienced anxiety and social pressures during the exchanges when she was actively trying to hide something. At other times, she experienced feelings of inauthenticity and guilt when she actively, and arguably ethically, misled her participants and friends to maintain confidentiality. During this period, Lowe found relief through reflecting on her field notes and cathartic meetings with her supervisor in which she could talk (albeit anonymised) about her research. Being exposed early to the risk of confidentiality breaches produced particular emotions for Ridgway in her role as a secrets keeper and significantly shaped her research practice. Particularly, the potentiality for confidentiality to be breached increased her anxiety about how speaking about her research could be used to draw assumptions about the involvement of particular women. While she felt a responsibility to use her data to reflect the women’s true experiences and rectify often incorrect stereotypes about them and their lives, she had to do so carefully. She thus found herself continually walking a thin line between using the data to
Kate Lowe and Alexandra Ridgway
do justice to the women’s experiences and promote change in policy and practice while simultaneously ensuring that she presented these experiences in such a way that the women could not possibly be identified. Not only was this cognitively challenging but it was also an emotional process. To not speak about the women’s lives at all would have left her in a state of guilt for she did not want the time and effort they offered via participation to be meaningless. At the same time, sharing their stories, even though anonymously, within the expatriate community could lead the listener to pry, focusing more on their desire to work out who the woman was rather than the message of the story itself. Ridgway became increasingly wary, obsessed with carefully reading all situations and people and the reasons behind their interest in the research before willingly discussing their findings. Fully aware of how cautious many of the women were in participating, she ended up very much keeping to herself, choosing to share the data in settings where she felt it would have real impact. Although neither of us has ever breached the confidentiality of our participants, the fear of that potential continues to weigh heavily upon us. Unlike other researchers who have discussed emotional labour during criminological research, it was not the collection of the data itself, nor the analysis of it, which caused the greatest distress for us. Rather it was the rumination of the possible ramification of what would happen if confidentiality was breached that continues to emotionally burden us. This is in terms of the effect it would have on our participants and their lives, as well as for ourselves, both professionally (our reputation as ethical researchers) and personally (our reputation as community members). Although Lowe’s research formally ended in 2018, she still resides and socialises, to this day, within the expatriate bubble in Hong Kong. The emotional labour, although less intense, continues through chance encounters with participants, or curious bystanders interested to hear about the research. She has kept secrets long beyond the data collection and the presumed end of her research project. Moreover, the secrets themselves are revisited through re-analysing data for conferences, journal papers, and this chapter itself. Many of the secrets themselves are left unresolved, becoming half stories in which, she may never get the closure or resolution needed to emotionally process them. For Ridgway, who has since returned to her home country of Australia, the pressure of secret keeping has lessened, allowing her some respite. While she still holds the secrets, the risks of breaching through social interactions are near non-existent in Australia and from this she has emotionally benefited. Her focus has then become on how to write about her research in ways that still uphold confidentiality, but this process is much more controlled. Consequently, the experiences of those who keep secrets while remaining within the community they researched compared to those who depart are markedly different, and this distinction should not be overlooked.
Conclusion and discussion The process of managing risks for participants and researchers alike may result in the performance of emotional labour. As discussed in this chapter, one area of
The keepers of secrets 125 the research process in which emotional risks and emotional labour may together arise is the process of maintaining confidentiality. Emotional risks may emerge through the potential breach, or fear of breaching, confidentiality. At the same time, responding, managing, and preventing breaches of confidentiality through processes of secrets keeping requires researchers to engage in emotional labour. In this chapter, we build upon current conversations concerning emotional risk and labour in criminology. However, most of these contributions have been tied to the immediate stages of research: the fieldwork, data collection, and data analysis. Yet confidentiality is an essential part of all stages of research and often extends beyond the research project and ethics board approval time frames (Israel, 2004). As our chapter illustrates, researchers often find themselves engaging in long periods of secret keeping, thereby demanding an ongoing emotional labour. The bulk of academic research which has focused on documenting emotional risk and labour has emanated from researchers working with marginalised populations. Nevertheless, we would argue that secrets keeping is a task which is also required for criminologists working with those considered to be elite. We have sought to broaden the scope of current research, and thus awareness, of how emotional risks and labour can be experienced by all researchers working on all research topics in criminology. If we accept, as a profession, that emotional risks and emotional labour are required for criminological research practice, then questions arise. For instance, do all ethics boards need to see, as part of researcher ethics applications, the investigator’s practices, and protocols on how they will minimise their own emotional risks just as much as their participants? Although this appears a simple solution, in practice it becomes difficult given the number of issues raised within this chapter. To begin with, emotional labour can be experienced beyond the initial stages of data collection and the assumed “end” of research itself, which muddles how long researchers would need to plan for this risk management in their ethics applications. Furthermore, some criminologists have already highlighted that ethics boards within their jurisdiction have become “gatekeepers”, limiting their ability to do valuable criminological research (Sandberg & Copes, 2012). By adding another layer of bureaucracy, regardless of how well intended, we may see a further stifling of criminological research. We also need to consider what actual practices would demonstrate to ethics boards that a researcher is minimalising their emotional risk. How would this be measured? And how are more complex processes – such as when researchers emotionally self-censor themselves to protect their participants – to be understood? Here the risk to the participant is reduced but potentially at greater emotional impact on the researcher. We expect researchers to suppress their emotions for the sake of their participants and success of their projects, but outlets for processing such emotions are still necessary, especially for preventing researcher traumatisation. Often reflective practice is suggested as a solution to the researcher being put at emotional risk but this too raises further questions if building reflective practice in research designs is to become a requirement of researchers. For instance, how does one demonstrate that they are being reflexive enough? Are researchers even emotionally capable
Kate Lowe and Alexandra Ridgway
of being reflexive in those instances where they are overwhelmed in the field, and should we even expect them to be? Emotional labour arises during the process of research itself with the initial ethics application not always foreseeing nor anticipating what type of emotions will be experienced or how and when they will arise. When these situations do arise, is it the role of researchers to keep ethics boards updated through incident reports, annual reviews, or informal dialogues with the boards themselves? Furthermore, how would these updates be assessed at the institutional level? Such questions leave us wondering whether it is then for the researcher to develop their own personal resilience to cope with the emotional risks and emotional labour which can occur through the research process and beyond and, if so, how? And who is responsible for supporting junior researchers with the prevention of their own emotional risks and to develop strategies for managing the emotional labour that conducting research inevitably involves? Academics have called for further training and support to be provided on such issues by the institutions they work for (Fenge et al., 2019), which could include requiring researchers to reflexively examine their “strengths, weaknesses and trigger points” in the research design phase (Fenge et al., 2019, p. 4). Other fields may also have some lessons to offer. Within health care and nursing settings, for example, staff are encouraged to self-examine their practice while also drawing on the guidance of their peers (Arvidsson et al., 2001; Bransford, 2009). In social work settings too, such reflective practice is also encouraged under professional supervision (Beddoe, 2010). Following suit, within academic contexts, research has noted the benefits of supervision or peer support, especially for ECRs and graduate students (Eigi et al., 2018), in preventing emotional exhaustion (Hunter & Devine, 2016). Emotional risk, emotions themselves and emotional labour may feel, at times, far removed from standard examinations of criminological research practices. Yet, as we have argued in this chapter, while such experiences may not fit within the neat descriptions of research, they are the lived experiences of researchers that often exist in the shadows. It is our hope that by laying bare our own stories here, we have brought these experiences to light and planted a seed for further discussions in this space, ones which may begin as casual banter among peers before eventually becoming an important area of research in its own right. Such conversations have the potential to examine the role of emotions in criminological research, not just in terms of their existence but also what they may value add to the research process.
Note 1 The last Hong Kong Government Population Census (2016) illustrates that the number of ethnic minorities in Hong Kong has increased significantly by about 70% over the past 10 years. The majority of ethnic minorities in Hong Kong were described as Filipinos (accounting for 31.5%), followed by Indonesians (26.2%). Other major ethnic groups were described as South Asians (14.5%), Mixed (11.2%) and Whites (10.0%) (Populations by-Census, Hong Kong Government, 2016).
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10 Dreams and nightmares Interviewing research participants who have experienced psychological trauma Mari Todd-Kvam and David Rodríguez Goyes Research log Day 14: The vehicle chasing us is swiftly cutting distance. Either I step on the gas pedal, or they get us. The road is uphill but smooth and straight; I accelerate and hope for a good outcome. As I hold tight the steering wheel, I glimpse at my passenger: a meaty, moustached man. Day 23: A pleasant evening got scary. My girlfriend and I were on the sofa, overwhelmed by Netflix’s enormous catalogue of documentaries, movies and series. Suddenly, Poker (my dog) started barking (not the playful bark, but the lurid, defensive one). Someone is trying to open my apartment door; strongly and compulsively moving the knob up and down. “What is the emergency number?” I ask my girlfriend;’123? 121?’ She gives me the mobile with the number already dialled; she looks scared. “I will guide you through our security protocols”, says the officer on the other side of the line. Day 40: I am in bed, the noise at my apartment door woke me up – again. Someone is trying to get in – and manages. I quickly get out of bed, throw Poker out of the French balcony (we live on the first floor; he will be fine). But when I turn to face the main door, I get shot . . . and die.
All three events happened to the second author (David); all three events were real (days 14 and 40 were nightmares, and the intruder on day 23 was a confused neighbour). Events such as these three are a common repercussion of demanding criminological fieldwork. At the time the events “occurred”, David was interviewing victims of Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar. Like David, many researchers experience emotional disturbances because of their immersion in the field (see, e.g. Stanley, 2018). Criminologists are particularly exposed to the risk of mental distress due to their research. As Italian criminologist Vincenzo Ruggiero stated, criminologists research bloody matters (2013). For the sake of our well-being – and thus also our work productivity (Cieslak et al., 2014) – we must implement measures to deal with the mental health impact of our fieldwork. Fieldwork-related experiences, as we explain later, can trigger physiological and psychological reactions, which when prolonged over time have longstanding harmful consequences for the researchers, ranging from abnormal stress hormone releases that hurt the brain, to continuous emotional pain that adversely affects relationships. DOI: 10.4324/9781003241515-10
Dreams and nightmares 131 Furthermore, criminological research necessarily involves others: it is a science about society and for society. Holding together the disparate field of criminology is an interest in violence and conflict (Loader, 2020). When trying to understand social dynamics of interest to criminologists, we often encounter participants who have had psychologically traumatic experiences. Moreover, ethical principles for social sciences impose on us, as researchers, the duty of thinking beyond ourselves and considering how our research can affect the mental and physical well-being of others, from research participants to the recipients of our outputs (NESH, 2021). In the previous paragraphs, we have given three reasons to pay attention to the particularities of working with participants who have experienced psychological trauma: to safeguard our well-being; to protect our productivity by avoiding harming ourselves; and to shield others (participants and audience) from any harms that result from our research. If those reasons are not strong enough, Rita Faria (2018) adds one more: by misusing our power as researchers we may be falling into the pitfall of white-collar crime (isn’t that ironic?). We, as researchers, have the power that cultural capital grants us; and our misuse of that power, although not a crime, may harm others’ lives – just like the actions of the subjects Edwin Sutherland (1961) studied did. To reduce these risks, in this chapter, we present the measures any criminologist working with participants who have experienced psychological trauma should implement in a research project from inception to fieldwork to output production. We illustrate our ideas using David’s experience researching among victims of Pablo Escobar. While our examples come from a project based on qualitative interviews, the overarching trauma-informed approach we propose applies to most other research methods. Note, however, that context matters when dealing with psychological trauma, so we need to adjust our ideas to the research setting. We thus invite you to calibrate these principles and strategies to the particularities of your own research field. Before we go there we must ask, what is psychological trauma?
What happened to myself? The significance of psychological trauma On June 23, 1990, a group of armed men, allegedly working for Pablo Escobar, entered the luxurious night bar Oporto in Envigado, Colombia. In a matter of ten minutes, the armed men had killed 23 persons and injured many more. The survivors believe that the attack was Pablo Escobar’s revenge on Medellín’s high class (Pablo Escobar was born economically poor and resented those born in economically rich families). Low-income earners, however, also frequented Oporto: one of them was Fidel.1 Fidel stated: bars like Oporto were places where the young people of Medellín used to meet; those between sixteen and twenty-five years. They were like refuges to us, cottages, hidden in quiet places . . . there were many pretty women there.
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Fidel went to Oporto on June 23, 1990. Fidel narrated his experience as follows: They [the armed men] were very organised. They had us lying on the ground; and we could only see their boots; they did not allow me to raise my head. We were on the ground, and I felt those were my last moments. When are they going to kill me? . . . To me those ten minutes were eternal; I was on the ground; they were killing. Fidel’s experience perfectly illustrates psychological trauma. To understand how psychological trauma can affect research participants and researchers, we must understand and differentiate between the traumatic situation and secondary trauma, posttraumatic stress symptoms, posttraumatic stress disorder, and trauma triggers. Most definitions of a psychological traumatic situation converge on describing an event, a series of events or an ongoing situation in which there is a serious threat to one’s life or bodily integrity, or to the life or bodily integrity of others, including sexual violence (Anstorp & Benum, 2014). A traumatic situation is something else than a situation characterized by grief or unhappiness, for example, because of a parent’s death in old age. A traumatic situation generates intense anxiety, often entails being overwhelmed and feeling powerless, and not knowing what to do or not being able to resolve the situation with the strategies one has available. For instance, during the bar shooting described earlier, Fidel feared for his life and was powerless to do anything about the threat: he could not fathom how to save himself or the others or even reduce the threat. The strategies he would otherwise use in everyday life, such as removing himself from the situation or talking to the threatening persons, were not available to him. A traumatic situation triggers a biological, physiological, and psychological survival response that is useful in the short run and harmful in the long run (Wilson, 2004). We must go back to the basics of biology and human-wired mechanisms of survival to understand the psychological, social, and meaning-making effects of trauma. During a psychologically traumatic situation, our bodies are wired to mobilise us to choose between fight or flight.2 Trauma reactions during the situation are adaptive to ensure survival. Our bodies increase the pulse rate, produce adrenaline, and narrow the attentional focus. During a traumatic situation, it is normal and adaptive to focus on the danger, be hypervigilant, and be hyperactivated. Furthermore, if our life or bodily integrity has been at risk, it is adaptive to keep the event vividly in mind for a reasonable period, be on guard against similar situations, and try to avoid them (See APA, 2013, pp. 270–271 for diagnostic criteria; Wilson, 2004, for a more detailed description). After the traumatic situation, many people are able to lower their guard, breathe out and return to normal, with the psychological traumatic situation remaining a bad memory. However, for some people, the trauma continues to affect their lives beyond that of a bad memory. We describe the long-term effects of trauma as posttraumatic stress symptoms. When posttraumatic stress symptoms are present
Dreams and nightmares 133 to a high and function-impairing degree, they become posttraumatic stress disorder – commonly referred to as PTSD (See APA, 2013, pp. 270–271 for diagnostic criteria; Wilson, 2004: for a more detailed description). Posttraumatic stress symptoms affect us biologically, emotionally, cognitively, behaviourally, and relationally. • •
Biologically, our bodies continue to respond as if we are in immediate danger: we experience hyperactivation, increased startle response, hypervigilance, and light sleep. Emotionally, we continue to feel scared and struggle to feel secure. Furthermore, we might feel shame for what we were exposed to, guilt for surviving when others did not, and emotionally numb. We are likely to feel alienated, sensing that nobody understands us and that we are not the same person we used to be. Cognitively, our ways of thinking are affected: our fundamental assumptions about the world, such as “most people are nice”, “the world is a safe place” and “mostly, I have some control over what happens to me”, are challenged. Our attentional focus might remain narrow on danger sources. We transform our interpretation of risk now that our fundamental assumptions about the world have changed. Furthermore, our memory is affected: intrusive memories of and flashbacks to the event are common, as are nightmares. The trauma is not a bad memory but becomes an ongoing process. Behaviourally, we might avoid situations we (rightly or wrongly) interpret as dangerous. We also may avoid situations that remind us of the traumatic situation and could trigger unwanted emotions and thoughts. Relationally, we might feel alienated and scared to take the risk of loving someone. As meaning-making beings, we might start questioning our faith or humanity.
The consequences of psychological trauma affect and perpetuate each other, both when the presence of trauma symptoms and functional impairment is subclinical, and when it passes the threshold for a PTSD diagnosis. For instance, assuming that things will not turn out okay and that other people are untrustworthy can increase hypervigilance. Hypervigilance and distrust heighten stress and anxiety, which reinforces the experience that the world is a dangerous place, and one has to be on guard. Furthermore, posttraumatic stress symptoms prevent us from healing because we instead focus on avoiding danger, allowing us to invest all our attention and emotion in that one task. The reservoir of energy needed for healthy practices is empty: being in a supportive relationship, sinking into the beauty of nature or a great piece of music, exercising, and laughing. As Wilson (2004, p. 12) summarises, “the whole person is wounded by trauma”. The presence and the intensity of posttraumatic symptoms can fluctuate. Trauma triggers are an important element in the fluctuations. Trauma triggers are “internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble aspects of the traumatic event(s)” (APA, 2013, p. 271). A trauma trigger can be as subtle as a smell or as unconcealed
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as a person shouting. Trauma triggers re-evoke and increases trauma symptoms. Some people are aware of their trauma triggers and can protect themselves from experiencing increased trauma symptoms; but awareness can also lead to avoidance behaviours that limit agency and quality of life. Being unaware of trauma triggers can lead to a perception that the world is an unpredictable and scary place. Trauma, in all its varieties, is complex and severe. Is there any room to doubt that the criminologist should approach it carefully? But carefulness does not mean evasion. Criminologists should research psychological trauma and interact with participants who have experienced trauma: to understand the social events that lead to traumatising events (the instance of harm or crime under study) and to counteract the social invisibility that many persons exposed to trauma feel and, in fact, experience. Not researching trauma, thus, can be unethical by perpetuating the experience of invisibility, hindering us from building trauma-informed prevention, interventions, and research (Legerski & Bunnell, 2010). On the other hand, talking about psychological trauma can trigger or increase posttraumatic stress symptoms. Thus, knowing that research activities can be a trauma trigger is a first call to caution. To further complicate matters, the American Psychiatric Association’s definition of a traumatic situation includes “experiencing repeated or extreme exposure to aversive details of the traumatic event(s)” (APA, 2013, p. 271, criterion A4). The term secondary traumatic stress, at times referred to as vicarious trauma, is used to describe the development of posttraumatic stress symptoms as a consequence of indirect exposure to trauma (Cieslak et al., 2014; Bride et al., 2004).3 This secondary trauma, a consequence of prolonged exposure to accounts of trauma, is evident in David’s research log quoted at the chapter’s outset. His intentional commitment to the role of researcher and to the project entailed not avoiding exposure to trauma. David, as many other criminologists, felt obliged to carry the burden alone. How can we study psychological trauma or interview persons with traumatic experiences for a criminology project without worsening the ills of trauma? How can we as researchers and criminologists do our fieldwork while following the Table 10.1 Trauma terminology Traumatic situation: An event, a series of events or a continuous situation in which there is a serious threat, including sexual violence, to one’s life or bodily integrity, or to the life or bodily integrity of others. Secondary traumatic stress: posttraumatic stress symptoms as a consequence of indirect exposure to trauma. Posttraumatic stress symptoms: Long-term effects of trauma that have biological, emotional, cognitive, behavioural, and relational consequences. Posttraumatic stress disorder: Heightened posttraumatic stress symptoms that impair function and well-being. Trauma triggers: Internal or external cues that symbolise or resemble aspects of the traumatic event.
Dreams and nightmares 135 ethical research standard of do no harm? Maurice Punch (1994, p. 83) presented a dichotomy regarding how to do research: On the one hand, Just Do It: “Fieldwork is fun; it is easy; anyone can do it; it is salutary for young academics to flee the nest; and they should be able to take any moral or political dilemmas encountered in their stride” (For examples of this approach, see Sandberg & Copes, 2013). On the other side, “there are voices that alert us to the inherent moral pitfalls” because “qualitative research is seen as potentially volatile, even hazardous, requiring careful consideration and preparation before someone should be allowed to enter the field”. Furthermore “without adequate training and supervision, the neophyte researcher can unwittingly become an unguided projectile bringing turbulence to the field, fostering personal traumas (for researcher and researched)” (ibid.). Just Do It followers sometimes view individuals advocating for carefulness with contempt. Just do it followers may even say that careful researchers are snowflakes. But, as Hannah Jewell (2022) writes, “we need snowflakes” – persons sensitive to potential harm-doing and equipped with prevention tools. As such, later we present a trauma-informed approach to research, inspired by trauma-informed approaches to treatment (see, for instance, Bath, 2008): and research on trauma-informed research from the field of psychology. It is a way of conducting research that aims at not strengthening or evoking harmful ways of feeling, thinking, reacting, and acting associated with trauma in either researcher or participant. We provide you with hands-on strategies (and additional literature) to help you take on the daunting task of approaching trauma ethically. We will take you on a trip from idea inception to research publications, starting with criminological research guides.
“Doing criminology” In most criminology guides (see, e.g. Davies & Francis, 2018; Newburn, 2007), the process of doing criminology is presented as four stages: (1) find a topic, (2) locate sources and plan your research, (3) enter the field and gather data, and (4) write the research output and exit the field. Traditionally, criminology textbooks have been introductory and light, thus not considering psychological trauma indepth. More recently, however, trauma considerations have begun to occupy more space in criminology texts. Heidi Haugen and May-Len Skilbrei (2021, p. 32) remark that “if research participants have been traumatised, for instance during war, terrorism, violence or an accident, the risk for re-traumatisation and other important consequences of research, should be evaluated”. They also point out that trauma can affect informed consent. David Scott (2018, pp. 150–151) emphasises “the importance of not harming research participants. Research participants should not suffer physical harm, loss of self-esteem or experience unnecessary stress”. Other criminologists have described the weight of trauma. Elizabeth Stanley (2018, pp. 331–332) noted how “many interviewees said that although they appreciated the opportunity to speak, it also brought up negative emotions. They
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felt scared, sad, angry, ashamed, embarrassed and pained to discuss past abuse”. Stanley also struggled with her own emotions: “I felt anger, horror, sadness and outrage”. And her “only solace” was the belief that her “basic ‘human’ responses have meant that my resulting work is stronger in its capture of the emotional and political impacts of state violence”. Considering the recent attention to trauma and taking into account the bloodiness of criminology, we seek to make trauma a central consideration in the research training of criminologists. We call for a trauma-informed research practice that uses the vast body of knowledge and practices developed by psychologists regarding trauma: an evidence-based research practice. Our goal is to emphasise the importance of a trauma-informed approach to research and to demonstrate that such an approach is feasible and manageable. Furthermore, as we explain later, our trauma-informed model of research can also – besides protecting participants and researchers- increase the quality of the data we gather and ultimately improve the knowledge we create. 1. Finding a topic In 2019, after a conference, David acted as tour guide through Medellín for a colleague criminologist. Both entered the Botanical Garden gift shop. David was talkative and people from Medellín friendly. The conversation between the seller and David, however, took an unexpected turn: she started crying at the thought of many foreigners visiting Medellín to have the Pablo Escobar experience (do drugs, buy sex, and place flowers on Escobar’s tomb). The project Profiting from Pablo: Victimhood and Commercialism in a Global Society was born out of that moment.4
David and his colleague dreamt of putting their craft as criminologists to the service of the victims of Pablo Escobar; victims who have lately been in further distress because of the way Netflix transformed their suffering into a commodity with the show Narcos (an entertainment product that makes the crimes of Escobar look appealing and largely ignores victims’ suffering). As the anecdote shows, a personal experience inspired David in his choice of a research topic. Using personal experiences as the fountain of inspiration is common in criminology, as Peter Francis explains (2018), and he invites researchers to evaluate their research topic on whether it is “feasible to undertake, given the time and resources available” and “conform[s] to School or Faculty and university ethics policies” (Francis, 2018, p. 48). Besides the temporary and economic feasibility of a research project, in this chapter we invite you to evaluate the utilitarian value (explained later) of your research project when it includes individuals who have experienced psychological trauma. Our formula for evaluating a research topic in a trauma-sensitive project relies on what Goyes (2019, p. 63) denominates as intrinsic ethics: “the researcher’s consideration of the desires, expectations and needs of the participants of the research”. At the other end of the continuum is extrinsic ethics: “the application
Dreams and nightmares 137 of codes of conduct for researchers, such as informed consent and prior consultation, and the approval of research projects by ethics committees”. We prefer to mainly rely on intrinsic ethics because we see extrinsic ethics as problematic in two senses: First, as Mark Israel (2016, p. 86) documents using the example of prison research: “the concept of consent [a cornerstone of extrinsic ethics] has been constructed within research”, the “requirements to obtain consent have been systematically evaded”, and “responses to scandal have led to the overprotection of institutions at the expense of prisoners’ ability to exercise autonomy, access justice, and benefit from the research process”. Second, in some countries (like Colombia), social sciences research does not require the ethical protocols that extrinsic ethics bring about. Therefore, on many occasions, the responsibility for ethical behaviour lies with the researcher (Goyes, 2021a, 2021b). Regardless of whether ethical checks are in place, we invite you to embrace a personal responsibility for the morality of your project. Utilitarian philosopher Peter Singer asserts that “the interests of every being affected by an action are to be taken into account and given the same weight as the like interests of any other being” in ethical practices (2009, p. 5). While Josef Mengele, the chief researcher in Nazi Germany, would have asserted that he was contributing to society as a whole by sacrificing a few (Seidelman, 1988), in trauma-informed research the condition of every participant must be improved as a consequence of the research (or at least not degraded). This is an agreed-upon principle today, expressed among others in the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki that conveys the message that the good of humanity does not make ethical the unethical actions towards individual beings. Trauma research offers information we can use in assessing the morality of our research. Evidence indicates that talking about trauma in a research context can be both harmful and positive for the participant. Studies report that many participants experience involvement in research as meaningful and a chance to tell their story, and even those who experience distress often do not regret having participated (Legerski & Bunnell, 2010; Griffin et al., 2003; Carter-Visscher et al., 2007). Research can break the silence that many experience around trauma. Because psychological trauma is intense and can be terrifying in nature, participants, and those in their social networks might often avoid talking about it. Silence among social networks might be out of respect, to avoid upsetting the person, or because they feel uncomfortable or helpless. While these reasons for avoiding talking about trauma are understandable, trauma becomes the scary elephant in the room. Silence around trauma can leave the person feeling that their narrative is unbearable, untouchable, and impossible to deal with. The traumatised person is left alone with the burden of carrying their trauma. Getting time and space to tell the story (even in a research setting), then, can help the individual. (A note of caution is due already here even though we develop it in full later: trauma-informed research avoids exploiting the participants’ desire and/or need to have a conversation partner to mine for data.) Furthermore, there is little evidence to suggest that interviews that touch upon psychological trauma can be a new traumatic situation, as the elements of intense anxiety and lack of control are unlikely to appear in a
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research situation (Seedat et al., 2004). However, without adequate training in trauma-informed interviewing, eagerness to extract good data – even with good intentions – can lead to the participant experiencing the research as unpleasant or triggering posttraumatic stress symptoms (i.e. re-traumatisation [Schippert et al., 2021]). In sum, “in the area of trauma, research interviews should not be idealized as providing a brief psychotherapy, but nor should they be demonized as being intrusive or as an inadequate substitute for treatment” (Stein et al., 2000, p. 35). Re-traumatising: the reactivation of trauma symptoms via thoughts, memories, or feelings related to the past trauma experience. Since we are learning from psychology, the main lesson this discipline has left us is that it is possible to do research on psychological trauma and with participants who have experienced trauma, in non-harmful ways. There are two significant differences between psychology and criminology, however: first, psychology is more strictly regulated than criminology in terms of ethics because the former is categorised as health research while criminology is as social science. Second, the fundamental academic training of psychologists includes trauma. So, criminologists learn from psychologists about the functioning of the psyche. How do we translate the knowledge of psychologists into guidance for criminologists? You must learn how to plan and conduct trauma-informed research. We discuss this in the next section. Locating sources and planning the research The project was approved by the Norwegian Centre for Research Data, the national entity responsible for privacy, which gave approval for the research activities of the two authors. Since data was collected in Colombia, we also complied with Colombian legal requirements concerning research ethics. We obtained informed consent from all interviewees, after explaining the purpose of the project in Spanish. We took measures, such as debriefing and follow-up conversations, to avoid re-victimisation due to the sensitive nature of the interviews and the vulnerability of some of the interviewees. (Goyes & Franko, 2021, p. 6)
When planning the research project, David and his colleague went beyond acquiring the ethical approval for his fieldwork (i.e. they applied intrinsic ethics). Some of the additional measures were sketching a comprehensive informed consent and scheduling debriefing sessions. These measures were important in protecting the participants. However, David failed to identify his own vulnerabilities before entering the field. Reflecting on his experiences, we offer you a detailed list of considerations when planning your research.
Dreams and nightmares 139 Locating sources: There are various ways to locate and select sources (i.e. sampling strategies). Probability sampling is a method “that uses random selection in which all the members of a particular population or subpopulation have an equal chance of being selected” (Adams & Lawrence, 2019, p. 114). Nonprobability sampling is defined as selecting “anyone (or any animal or archive) contributing data to the study” (ibid., p. 122). Other related forms of categorising sampling are a priori in which the structure of the sample is defined before the research begins and theoretical sampling in which “decisions about choosing and putting together empirical material (cases, groups, institutions, etc.) are made in the process of collecting and interpreting data” (Flick, 2005, p. 64). What does our knowledge of trauma mean for sampling processes? Can participants be too “traumatised” or too “disordered” to participate in a research project? The most important sampling criterion should be participant safety. Storing interview data securely does not suffice; a potential participant being in contact with the researcher might put the participant at risk. For example, some of the victims of Pablo Escobar have information that points to powerful individuals still living in Medellín as accomplices of the drug lord. Merely meeting with a researcher can endanger such participants. (If you want to read more about how to mitigate risk associated with disclosure, see Newman et al. [2006, p. 31].) Another criterion is participant distress prevention. Some studies suggest that having posttraumatic stress disorder increases the risk of distress associated with research participation (Legerski & Bunnell, 2010). A screening process for potential research participants can help identify whether they have posttraumatic stress disorder. While excluding participants on the basis of symptom intensity might cause biased data and exclude important knowledge and perspectives, as criminologists, we do not study psychological trauma per se (unless we are collaborating with psychologists), and there might not be any reason to include participants with posttraumatic stress disorder. However, be mindful of the risk of silencing individuals based on your fear of psychological trauma. Planning the research: As indicated earlier, one implication of traumainformed research we propose is that you must be prepared to deal with psychological trauma beyond the mandates of secure data storage and extrinsic ethical regulations. Criminologists must receive training to deal with psychological trauma at three levels. The first level deals with gaining knowledge on trauma and its effects, the legal framework governing work with individuals who have experienced traumatic situations, and the available treatment options. The second level deals with acquiring specific skills to handle trauma. The third level is self-reflexion. Level one: Preparation for interviewing participants who have experienced psychological trauma involves clarifying legal frameworks in the context of the interview, for instance, whether the researcher has the legal obligation of breaking confidentiality and reporting certain types of information (see more about mandatory reporting later). Furthermore, preparation involves
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clarifying available health care for participants and its suitability for the participant (Campbell et al., 2019). Second, we recommend preparing written leaflets for participants to take with them. Because of the emotional cost and activation of psychological trauma presented by the interview, the participant can have problems taking in and remembering all the information the researcher gives. We therefore recommend that interviewers have clear written information at hand about (1) potential reactions to trauma-focused interviews, (2) available help services, and (3) relevant literature (Becker-Blease, n.d.). Our proposal of using a leaflet comes with two caveats: first, you should not use it as a quick fix to replace a holistic preparation to research among individuals who have experienced traumatic situations. Second, you should avoid distributing the leaflet on occasions when having it can create a risky situation for the participant. Level two: Preparation for interviewing traumatised research participants entails skills in trauma-sensitive interviewing (Newman et al., 2006; Seedat et al., 2004; Becker-Blease, n.d.). Skills are different from knowledge in that they require training and practice: we cannot merely read about them but need to set aside time to develop these skills. Seedat and colleagues (2004) describe three necessary skills when working with psychological trauma: identifying and responding appropriately to symptoms of distress, knowing when to terminate an interview, and knowing how to terminate an interview. We do not have space to explain them in depth here, but our message is that interviewers must have these three skills as the minimum prerequisite. In the Utøya project, which researched the survivors of terror attacks in Oslo, Norway, in 2011, only health professionals with specific training in interviewing people who have experienced trauma were accepted as interviewers (Dyb et al., 2014). Good sources to learn about those skills are Trauma-Informed Healthcare Approaches by Megan Gerber (2019), The Three Pillars of Transforming Care by Howard Bath and John Seita (2018), and TraumaInformed Care by Amanda Evans and Patricia Coccoma (2014). Information on Tolerance Window (a tool to identify and respond to trauma symptoms) is also useful (Corrigan et al., 2011). However, these readings come from health care and social work contexts where the purpose of the conversation is healing, not gathering information. Training in trauma research, in addition to the obvious benefit of reducing participant and researcher distress (Cieslak et al., 2014) seems to produce better data (Seedat et al., 2004). In an interview setting where the participant feels secure, understood, and accepted, and trusts the competence of the researcher to help manage the emotional toll of telling, it is more likely that the participant will provide rich and detailed information. Level three: self-reflection. A research team should address stereotypes and biases they may have about the group being interviewed. Failing to do so could negatively affect both the interview experience and the quality of the data (Seedat et al., 2004). Participants who feel prejudged will not feel secure, understood, and accepted – prerequisites for telling one’s story fully. Furthermore, as researchers we can experience distress or secondary
Dreams and nightmares 141 trauma from doing research on trauma (Newman et al., 2006). We (and our assistants) may have had experiences that make us vulnerable to developing trauma symptoms or “guilt at having been spared the trauma oneself, frustration at not being able to provide more help, and feeling that one is taking advantage of research subjects in order to advance one’s professional career” (Stein et al., 2000, pp. 34–35). Thus, reflecting on our potential vulnerabilities (such as having experienced trauma or having a propensity to empathise deeply) can mitigate our distress. Deep empathy or trauma experience, however, should not hinder you from researching traumarelated topics; your sensibility and experience might be important skills and perspectives in themselves. Rather, self-reflection should involve (1) recognising and accepting your strengths and vulnerabilities, (2) identifying the strategies you can use to deal with them, and (3) assessing whether there is a need to learn new strategies or have extra support in place. In the next section, we will describe some self-care routines to implement during the research (useful for all researchers).
Locating sources: use participant safety and participant distress reduction as criteria. Planning your fieldwork: • • •
Level one: gain knowledge of trauma, legal frameworks, and available health care services. Level two: develop skills (identifying and responding, knowing when and how to terminate the interview). Level three: self-reflect (stereotypes and biases, personal strengths and vulnerabilities, personal strategies, and needs).
Entering the field Getting informed consent and gathering data in the form of interviews relies heavily on relational skills: self-awareness, empathy, and ability to establish rapport. The goals of relational skills are meeting the participants with respect, gratitude, and acceptance; leaving them feeling liked, seen, and appreciated for their strength and contribution and allowing them agency and control in the interview situation (Campbell et al., 2019), hence the imperative to go through training before entering the field. In this section, we discuss specific applications in the field, of the knowledge, skills, and self-awareness we gain through training. Informed consent: While we should prepare the informed consent form before entering the field, in a trauma-informed research approach the informed consent is a collaborative and continuous process (two concepts
Mari Todd-Kvam and David Rodríguez Goyes that we explain later). In addition to the information usually provided in an informed consent (the purpose and main research questions of the study, the procedures to ensure confidentiality, etc.), informed consent forms in research on trauma should include • Information about the empirical knowledge on the effects of participating. • Information on potential reactions to trauma triggers (some of the interview questions could be triggers). Victims react differently to traumatic events and have diverse triggers (or may not have triggered at all). So, while trauma triggers and reactions to them are not markers about who is a real victim and should not become a normative expectation for how victims should behave, the informed consent should include information about triggers. This should be presented in a way that does not indicate that they are universal. • When relevant, information on mandatory reporting and other relevant information on legal frameworks and how one ensures participant safety. Mandatory reporting varies across countries and states; however, generally, it is the prosecutors’ duty to collect information about crimes rather than the researchers’ (i.e. in most cases we do not have mandatory reporting duties). Yet, legislative activity is progressing towards placing the burden of reporting also on researchers, particularly when there is threat of violence against law enforcement officers, children, or partners. We advise you to check the legislation that applies to your project.
While evidence suggests that “decision-making capacity is not compromised for most trauma survivors” (Newman et al., 2006, p. 38), Seedat and colleagues (2004, p. 265) assert that “ensuring that consent is voluntary and informed may be more a question of detecting and eliminating lack of consent”. In line with the latter, the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies (ISTSS) recommends applying a consent quiz to ensure that the participant understands the ramifications of the interview (Becker-Blease, n.d.). Criminologists rarely interview participants immediately after the psychologically traumatic experience, as journalists do. However, should that possibility arise, keep in mind that the interviewee might be experiencing acute trauma: be in shock, over-activated, or otherwise incapable of taking in the information. Acute trauma, as a rule, eliminates the possibility of informed consent. For instance, in our example on pages 3 and 4, Fidel could not have consented immediately after his experience at the bar (you can read more about this discussion in Seedat et al., 2004; Campbell et al., 2019). In trauma-informed research, informed consent should go beyond the form, that is, be understood as a continuous process. Trauma-focused interviews can trigger emotional activation and arousal that diminish the participant’s capacity to act consciously, thoughtfully, and agentively (Corrigan et al., 2011). In this regard, Seedat et al. (2004) recommend giving advance warning of every violence or trauma-focused question and get permission before continuing. Seedat et al. (2004) suggest preparing an interview guide with both open and specific
Dreams and nightmares 143 questions to ensure this but emphasise that the “nature and wording of the questions and the skill and sensitivity of the interviewers are paramount” (Ibid., p. 265). Furthermore, a balance between treating participants who have experienced trauma as defective and incapable of decision-making on the one hand and ignoring their trauma-specific challenges on the other hand lies in understanding informed consent as a collaborative process. This involves listening to the participant’s experience of trauma and of dealing with its symptoms, their expectations of the interview, and their preferences for how to collaboratively ensure that the participant feels free to skip questions, take breaks, or end the interview. Debriefing: We should set aside time to check in with the participant after the interview about how they feel, what they need to land, and how to ground themselves again (Becker-Blease, n.d.). Landing – reducing the emotional distress and activation that the interview has evoked – could mean breathing exercises (taking slow, deep breaths where inhale and exhale last four seconds each), mindful, and accepting observation (What are you feeling? How does it manifest in your body? This is a normal reaction to talking about trauma) or expanding attention to non-trauma elements (i.e. noticing things around you, small talk about the moment, though only after explicitly recognising the participant’s reactions). We should be able to provide, if necessary, information on where they can get professional help. After the interview, offer a check-up call. In some cases, we can do this quite assertively: “I will call you in three days, I will try two times. If you do not answer, and do not call me back, I will assume you do not want a check-up call”. If you make yourself available for the participants post-interview, you should communicate your availability clearly (time of day, for how long) and also refer to the information you provide on available health services. Self-care: We must implement routines for our own self-care and that of our assistants. Self-care routines involve strengthening what research has identified as protective factors and strategies, such as self-efficacy (i.e. adequate training), individual strategies (i.e. journaling your reactions, finding meaning in your work), work–life balance and a balance between data collection and other tasks within work, and social and peer support, including having regular research team meetings to debrief (Newman et al., 2006; Trippany et al., 2004; Cieslak et al., 2014). Debriefing meetings should focus on the researchers’ experiences and reactions (“I was appalled!”, “I felt helpless”, “I realise how unfair and unpredictable life is”, or “I notice I’ve become more risk-aware in my daily life”). We should avoid sharing the gory details of what we heard in the interview; sharing them might increase secondary traumatic stress. Adopting a compassionate attitude towards ourselves as researchers and human beings is perhaps the most important self-care tool. Self-compassion can come in the form of mindfully accepting your own reactions and recognising that you are not alone in your feeling (Neff, 2003). It can also come in the form of prioritising time and activities in our lives that give us joy, peace, and consolation (such as a hug, going for a run or hike in
Mari Todd-Kvam and David Rodríguez Goyes nature, mindfulness practices, or being with someone you love). Self-care strengthens resilience (Kemper et al., 2015) and is of value in and of itself.
Exiting the field Throughout the book we anonymised the testimonies of victims and survivors of narco-violence and the names of relatives killed by Escobar and his group. However, people we interviewed saw the obliteration of their suffering and that of their relatives as one of the biggest injustices they faced. Therefore, in this final section we – in co-operation with the Museo Casa de la Memoria in Medellín and our interviewees – aim to commemorate the victims that our interviewees wish to honour. (Extract from the forthcoming book Drug violence, victimhood, and consumerism in the global society by Katja Franko and David Goyes)
How should knowledge about trauma experiences be disseminated without harming the participants or the reader? As Fleetwood et al. (2019) state, when we as criminologists report research findings, we are most likely telling stories of crime and harm, and those stories can have a profound negative impact on individuals and societies. In response, in this segment we reflect on the dissemination of individual and collective knowledge. The most important principle is to disseminate in ways that protect our research participants: in ongoing conflicts and violence, revealing the identities and circumstances of our participants can have dire consequences for them. There are challenges related to anonymising qualitative data: how can we provide enough details in our study to make it credible but not identify the participant? what details can we change to protect the participant without putting at risk the validity of our study? Campbell et al. (2019) discuss these and further questions and suggest involving the participant in the process of anonymisation. There is also a tension between describing the informants’ experiences in a way that emphasises the severity of them without pathologising them or being sensationalist. Victims of trauma may have felt powerless and broken at times – we should avoid creating or furthering those feelings with our descriptions. Trauma-sensitive research should rather be an experience that enables empowerment. We should, for instance, reflect on how our dissemination affects the groups represented by the participants and how our descriptions affect the broader social understanding of them (Dworkin & Allen, 2017).
Conclusion Think of the ten persons closest to you: if the situation worldwide is as it is in the United States, seven of them have had a psychological traumatic experience in their lives (National Council for Wellbeing, 2013). That someone has had a
Dreams and nightmares 145 psychologically traumatic experience, posttraumatic stress symptoms or disorder, or secondary traumatic stress does not mean they are unable to contribute to our discipline. Rather, the opposite; it is mainly those who have experienced trauma and its consequences who can help us understand crime and social conflicts. Comprehending what trauma is and how to face it can help everyone make the best out of their circumstances (Seligman, 2011). *** While working on this chapter, David had many conversations with his colleague criminologists about how fieldwork affected him. Most responded with a personal story about the undesirable effects fieldwork had had on them, and stated that they wished they had been better prepared to tackle the emotional impacts of research. And we wish the same for you: that you are fully equipped to work with and around trauma. We hope to have provided you with enough tools to research trauma or have participants with trauma experiences in a way that your project improves the conditions of all the persons involved in the research. We also hope that by speaking openly about David’s experience conducting fieldwork, we contribute to the creation of an open research culture. We hope that talking about psychological trauma lessens its taboo, even in academia. We wish to dismantle the lingering macho culture in the academy in which men are not supposed to be emotionally affected by research.
Acknowledgements We are grateful to Rosemary Ricciardelli, Michael Adorjan, Sveinung Sandberg, May-Len Skilbrei, and Helen Sword for their constructive comments on previous versions of this chapter.
Notes 1 All names of research participants are pseudonyms. David interviewed Fidel as part of his research project; in the following, we provide more details on the project. 2 Another less typical response to traumatic situations is the freeze-response. 3 For a discussion of differences and overlap between terms used to describe effects of prolonged indirect exposure to trauma in social and mental health work settings, such as compassion fatigue, secondary traumatic stress, and burnout, see Cieslak et al. (2014). 4 See more at www.jus.uio.no/ikrs/english/research/projects/profiting-from-pablo/. Accessed December 2021.
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Anstorp, T., & Benum, K. (2014). Traumebehandling: komplekse traumelidelser og dissosiasjon [Trauma treatment: Complex trauma disorders and dissociation]. Universitetsforlaget. Bath, H. (2008). The three pillars of trauma-informed care. Reclaiming Children and Youth 17(3), 17–21. Bath, H., & Seita, J. (2018). The three pillars of transforming care. Trauma and resilience and the other 23 hours. University of Winnipeg Faculty of Education Publishing. Becker-Blease, K. (n.d.). Five tools for ethical trauma-focused research. Retrieved November 29, 2021, from https://istss.org/education-research/istss-research-guidelines/ ethical-issues-in-trauma-research/five-tools-for-ethical-trauma-focused-research Bride, B. E., Robinson, M. M., & Yegidis, B. (2004). Development and validation of the secondary traumatic stress scale. Research on Social Work Practice, 14(1), 27–35. Campbell, R., Goodman-Williams, R., & Javorka, M. (2019). A trauma-informed approach to sexual violence research ethics and open science. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 34(23–24), 4765–4793. Carter-Visscher, R. M., Naugle, A. E., & Bell, K. M. (2007). Ethics of asking traumarelated questions and exposing participants to arousal-inducing stimuli. Journal of Trauma & Dissociation, 8(3), 27–55. Cieslak, R., Shoji, K., & Douglas, A. (2014). A meta-analysis of the relationship between job burnout and secondary traumatic stress among workers with indirect exposure to trauma. Psychological Services, 11(1), 75. Corrigan, F., Fisher, J., & Nutt, D. (2011). Autonomic dysregulation and the window of tolerance model of the effects of complex emotional trauma. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 25(1), 17–25. Davies, P., & Francis, P. (2018). Decision making and reflexivity in doing criminological research. In P. Davies & P. Francis (Eds.), Doing criminological research (pp. 1–32). SAGE. Dworkin, E. R., & Allen, N. E. (2017). For the good of the group? Balancing individual and collective risks and benefits in community psychology research. American Journal of Community Psychology, 60(3–4), 391–397. Dyb, G., Jensen, T. K., & Nygaard, E. (2014). Post-traumatic stress reactions in survivors of the 2011 massacre on Utøya Island, Norway. British Journal of Psychiatry, 204(5), 361–367. Evans, A., & Coccoma, P. (2014). Trauma-informed care. How neuroscience influences practice. Routledge. Faria, R. (2018). Research misconduct as white-collar crime. A criminological approach. Palgrave. Fleetwood, J., Presser, L., & Sandberg, S. (2019). Introduction. In J. Fleetwood, L. Presser, & S. Sandberg (Eds.), The Emerald handbook of narrative criminology. Emerald. Flick, U. (2005). An introduction to qualitative research. SAGE. Francis, P. (2018). Planning and proposing criminological research. In P. Davies & P. Francis (Eds.), Doing criminological research (pp. 35–66). SAGE. Gerber, M. (2019). Trauma-informed healthcare approaches: A guide for primary care. Springer. Goyes, D. R. (2019). Southern green criminology: A science to end ecological discrimination. Emerald. Goyes, D. R. (2021a). Criminologia verde do sul. In M. D. Budó, D. R. Goyes, & A. Brisman (Eds.), Introdução à criminologia verde. Tirant Brasil.
Dreams and nightmares 147 Goyes, D. R. (2021b). Environmental crime in Latin America and Southern green criminology. Oxford University Press. Goyes, D. R., & Franko, K. (2021). Profiting from Pablo: Victimhood and commercialism in a global society. British Journal of Criminology, 62(3), 533–550. https://doi. org/10.1093/bjc/azab078 Griffin, M. G., Resick, P. A., & Waldrop, A. E. (2003). Participation in trauma research: Is there evidence of harm? Journal of Traumatic Stress, 16(3), 221–227. Haugen, H. Ø., & Skilbrei, M. -L. (2021). Håndbok i forskningsetikk og databehandling. Fagbokforlaget. Israel, M. (2016). A history of coercive practices: The abuse of consent in research involving prisoners and prisons in the United States. In M. Adorjan & R. Ricciardelli (Eds.), Engaging with ethics in international criminological research (pp. 69–86). Routledge. Jewell, H. (2022). We need snowflakes: In defence of the sensitive, the angry and the offended. Hachette. Kemper, K. J., Mo, X., & Khayat, R. (2015). Are mindfulness and self-compassion associated with sleep and resilience in health professionals? Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 21(8), 496–503. Legerski, J. -P., & Bunnell, S. L. (2010). The risks, benefits, and ethics of trauma-focused research participation. Ethics & Behavior, 20(6), 429–442. Loader, I. (2020). Criminology’s plausible worlds. In T. Daems & S. Pleysier (Eds.), Criminology and democratic politics (pp. 42–58). Routledge. National Council for Wellbeing. (2013). How to manage trauma. Retrieved December 7, 2021, from www.thenationalcouncil.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Trauma-infographic.pdf?daf=375ateTbd56 Neff, K. D. (2003). The development and validation of a scale to measure self-compassion. Self and Identity, 2(3), 223–250. NESH. (2021). Guidelines for research ethics in the social sciences, humanities, law and theology. The Norwegian National Research Ethics Committees. Newburn, T. (2007). Criminology. Willan Publishing. Newman, E., Risch, E., & Kassam-Adams, N. (2006). Ethical issues in trauma-related research: A review. Journal of Empirical Research on Human Research Ethics, 1(3), 29–46. Punch, M. (1994). Politics and ethics in qualitative research. In N. K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), Handbook of qualitative research (pp. 83–97). SAGE. Ruggiero, V. (2013). Critical criminology, power and systemic conflicts. European Group for the Study of Deviance and Social Control Newsletter, 22–24. Sandberg, S., & Copes, H. (2013). Speaking with ethnographers. The challenges of researching drug dealers and offenders. Journal of Drug Issues, 43(2), 176–197. https:// doi.org/10.1177/0022042612465275 Schippert, A. C. S. P., Grov, E. K., & Bjørnnes, A. K. (2021). Uncovering re-traumatization experiences of torture survivors in somatic health care: A qualitative systematic review. PLoS One, 16(2), e0246074. Scott, D. (2018). The politics and ethics of criminological research. In P. Davies & P. Francis (Eds.), Doing criminological research (pp. 137–157). SAGE. Seedat, S., Pienaar, W. P., & Williams, D. (2004). Ethics of research on survivors of trauma. Current Psychiatry Reports, 6(4), 262–267. Seidelman, W. E. (1988). Mengele medicus: Medicine’s Nazi heritage. Milbank Quarterly, 66(2), 221–239. Seligman, M. (2011). Flourish. Nicholas Brealey Publishing.
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Singer, P. (2009). Animal liberation: The definitive classic of the animal movement. Harper Collins. Stanley, E. (2018). Using interviews as storytelling in criminological research. In P. Davies & P. Francis (Eds.), Doing criminological research (pp. 321–339). SAGE. Stein, D. J., Herman, A., & Kaminer, D. (2000). Ethical aspects of research on psychological trauma. Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, 2(1), 31. Sutherland, E. (1961). White collar crime. Holt, Rinehart and Winston. Trippany, R. L., Kress, V. E. W., & Wilcoxon, S. A. (2004). Preventing vicarious trauma: What counselors should know when working with trauma survivors. Journal of Counseling & Development, 82(1), 31–37. Wilson, J. P. (2004). PTSD and complex PTSD: Symptoms, syndromes, and diagnoses. In J. P. Wilson & T. M. Keane (Eds.), Assessing psychological trauma and PTSD (pp. 7–44). Guilford Press.
11 Fear and loathing in the Philippines The ethics of researching President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs William N. Holden Editors’ note: The following chapter provides a discussion of performative violence, including assassinations and extrajudicial killings, and includes images of deceased people, which may be distressing to some. Reader discretion is strongly advised.
Introduction Since becoming President of the Philippines in 2016, Rodrigo Roa “Digong” Duterte has implemented a brutal war on drugs, described by Winn (2019, p. 25) as “among the bloodiest massacres in recent Southeast Asian history”. The war on drugs has been a campaign of systematic extrajudicial killings, which are defined by Amnesty International (2019, p. 25) as, “the unlawful and deliberate killing of a person carried out by state agents or by people acting with the authorization, support, or acquiescence of state agents”. The campaign has, in the words of Winn (2019, p. 128), racked “up a body count seldom seen outside large-scale land battles” and “this ongoing massacre has come to define the modern Philippines” (Winn 2019, p. 129). I am an aspiring Philippine studies “expert”, who had already been to the Philippines ten times and had already published articles on the human rights situation there (Holden, 2009, 2011, 2012). During 2018, journals were sending me manuscripts on the war on drugs to review and journalists were asking me for interviews about the war on drugs. Since others were recognising my knowledge, I felt I could no longer sit on the sidelines as the carnage mounted and I began a research project on the war on drugs. This led to 7 weeks of fieldwork in the Philippines in 2019 and the writing of a book in 2020, and the publication of a book in 2021 (Holden, 2021). In the current chapter, I discuss how research on the war on drugs in the Philippines was conducted in an ethical manner without (most importantly) putting research participants in danger and (to an extent) endangering myself. I conclude with lessons on how to conduct an application for ethics approval and the benefits (indeed necessity) of making an ethics application.
The war on drugs in the Philippines The Republic of the Philippines is an archipelago of 7,107 islands located in Southeast Asia (Figure 11.1). In 1986, at the end of the Marcos dictatorship, President DOI:10.4324/9781003241515-11
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Figure 11.1 The Philippines, an Archipelago in Southeast Asia Source: The Author
Fear and loathing in the Philippines 151 Corazon Aquino, fired all mayors and Duterte, a prosecutor, was appointed Officer in Charge of Davao City on the island of Mindanao (Holden, 2021). Then, in 1988, Duterte was elected mayor – a position he held (subject to term limits) until 2016. Davao was plagued by crime, and Duterte was determined to restore order without any hesitation to using violence (Holden, 2021). In the 1990s, Duterte mobilised the Davao Death Squad (DDS), which killed over 1,400 people from 1998 to 2015. Its victims included drug sellers, drug users, petty criminals, street children, and three radio commentators critical of the DDS (Picardal, 2016). Duterte soon developed a larger-than-life persona, and, under Duterte’s iron fist, Davao transformed its image from one of the Republic’s most dangerous places to one of its safest (Holden, 2021). In 2016, Duterte sought the presidency exploiting the issues of law and order and warning of disaster if drugs, specifically methamphetamine, were not eliminated (Holden, 2021). Holding out his success in transforming Davao into the safest city in the Republic (and the common knowledge this was done through using the DDS), Duterte made it clear he, and only he, could save the archipelago from the perils of crime and drugs. Duterte has told Filipinos their poverty, their subjugation, everything that makes them feel impotent- all of it can be traced back to the evils of methamphetamine. Eliminate those under its spell, both smokers and pushers, and you shall be liberated from chaos, poverty, and woe. (Winn, 2019, p. 175). Several writers maintain Duterte has exaggerated the magnitude of the drug problem in the Philippines (Curato, 2017a; Gallagher et al., 2020; Kim et al., 2017; Tusalem, 2019). A source of data on annual drug use, or “drug prevalence”, is the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the UN agency established in 1998 to curtail the global traffic of illegal drugs (McCoy, 2017; Rolles, 2017). The UNODC is a credible institution, which (unlike Duterte’s ad hoc estimates) submits its research to professional peer review to ensure quality control (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 2018). Table 11.1 presents the UNODCs 2017 annual drug prevalence rates for the Philippines along with Table 11.1 Drug prevalence rates in the Philippines, 2017 Drug
Philippine prevalence rate
Prevalence rate globally
Amphetamines Cannabis Cocaine Ecstasy Opiates Opioids
1.10 1.64 0.07 0.02 0.04 0.05
0.59 3.80 0.31 0.41 0.59 1.08
Source: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. 2019. World Drug Report 2019. Vienna: Division for Policy Analysis and Public Affairs, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
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their global prevalence rates. The drug with the highest prevalence rate in the archipelago is cannabis, consumed by 1.64% of the population, but this prevalence rate is below the global prevalence rate of 3.80%. The drug with the second highest prevalence rate in the Philippines is amphetamine-type stimulants, specifically methamphetamine, which have a prevalence rate of 1.10 – above the global prevalence rate of 0.59% but lower than the prevalence rates in several other countries, such as the United States at 3.10%. The other major types of drugs (cocaine, opioids, opiates, and ecstasy) all have prevalence rates in the Philippines well below their global rates. A method of estimating the social costs of drug use in a country is to look at that country’s disability-adjusted life years (DALYs). Table 11.2 presents the 2010 DALY standardised per 100,000 people from illicit drug use for several countries including the Philippines. In the Philippines, there were 251.3 years of life lived with disability or prematurely lost because of illegal drugs, though the 2010 DALYs for the Philippines are well below those in other countries, such as the United States of America (816) or Canada (581) (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 2019). Such figures suggest the war on drugs has not been implemented to stave off a collapse of society due to rampant drug use; rather, its aim is the promotion of an authoritarian agenda by establishing a climate of intimidation and fear destroying democratic political institutions and remaking them in an authoritarian direction (Holden, 2021). “The idea of emergency, or the state of exception”, wrote Parenti (2011, p. 209), “is crucial in the political theory of authoritarian states”. “Politicians”, stated Hart (2021, p. 106), “have long recognized that political and economic currency can be reliably garnered by arousing public fear” and exaggerating drug problems provides them “with opportunities to be heroes and saviors”. In the Philippines, as previously noted, methamphetamine (or shabu as it is referred to in the archipelago) frequently arises in political discussions. Philippine drug use, wrote Sy et al. (2020, p. 12), “must be viewed in the context of the Table 11.2 Disability-adjusted life years per 100,000 people from total illicit drug burden, 2010 Country
Disability-adjusted life years per 100,000
United States of America Canada Myanmar Germany Vietnam France Malaysia Thailand Indonesia Philippines China
816.2 581.0 573.3 397.8 344.3 333.6 319.2 311.7 287.0 251.3 201.6
Source: Pardo, B., B. Kilmer, and W. Huang. 2019. Contemporary Asian Drug Policy: Insights and Opportunities for Change. Santa Monica: Rand Corporation.
Fear and loathing in the Philippines 153 prevailing work ethic and citizens’ commitment to productivity”. Lasco (2018, p. 40) conducted an ethnographic study of male Filipino methamphetamine users aged 18 to 25 and found meth gave users, “alertness and energy to perform manual tasks, disinhibition to engage in sex work, and sleeplessness allowing them to work at night”. The lack of inclusive economic growth in the Philippines has led to what Lasco (2014, p. 784), called “a rapidly growing informal economy where workers are subject to ‘precarious work’”. In this context, methamphetamine is inexorably linked to the Philippines’ informal economy. On July 1, 2016, Duterte’s first day in office, the Philippine National Police (PNP) began the war on drugs by implementing its antidrug programme “Project Double Barrel” (Holden, 2021). The most controversial manifestation of the war on drugs are the killings of people who (allegedly) sell or use drugs. There are two broad types of killings (Holden, 2021). The first are encounter killings, where the police arrest someone in a (supposed) “buy-bust” operation, the person fights back, and the police kill them in self-defence. The second type are committed by unidentified killers, usually people riding in tandem on a motorcycle. The government alleges these killers to be “vigilantes”, people taking matters into their own hands, although there are indications the police have hired these killers. Frequently victims’ bodies are found disposed of in public sometimes bearing signs decrying their involvement in drugs. Examples of such killings can be found in the photography of the nightcrawlers (Figure 11.2), a group of Filipino photojournalists
Figure 11.2 Two victims of the war on drugs found in public on July 21, 2016 Source: Philippine Daily Inquirer and Raffy Lerma, photographer. Used with permission.
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such as Raffy Lerma, Luis Liwanag, and Jun Santiago who documented the war on drugs’ carnage, or in Daniel Berehulak’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 2016 photo essay, “They are Slaughtering Us Like Animals” published in the New York Times (Berehulak, 2016; Pulitzer Prizes, 2017). While some estimate as many as 36,000 have been killed, an exact determination of fatalities is difficult (Regilme, 2021). One method of estimating the extent of the carnage is to look at police data on the archipelago’s homicides. At the end of 2017, the PNP claimed 3,967 people were killed by its members in legitimate police operations, while another 16,355 people were killed in (what it calls) “unexplained killings” between July 1, 2016, and September 30, 2017 (Holden, 2021). The Duterte Administration Year-End Report 2017 Key Accomplishments, published by the Presidential Communications Office, has an extensive list of accomplishments under the heading, “Fighting Illegal Drugs” and it lists these “unexplained killings” under its accomplishments for 2017 (Presidential Communications Office, 2017). When these 16,355 unexplained killings are added to those killed in legitimate police operations, 20,322 people were killed in the war on drugs in only 15 months! In any event, debating the absolute number of fatalities misses the point that even one extrajudicial death is too many (Holden, 2021). Salvador Regilme described the war on drugs as “the worst state-initiated human rights crisis in the country’s modern political history” (Regilme, 2021, p. 7). Most killings have occurred in urban poor communities in Metro Manila, Central Luzon, the Calabarzon Region, and Cebu City (Holden, 2021). In the words of Regilme (2021, p. 7), “People from economically impoverished backgrounds constitute a substantial number, if not the majority, of all the civilian deaths recorded in the Philippines”. Theriault (2020, p. 188) described the war on drugs as a “deeply classist assault on petty drug users and dealers”. To Hart (2021, p. 129), the poor are “the primary targets of Duterte’s war on methamphetamine”. There is ample academic literature indicating the popularity of both Duterte and the war on drugs among Filipinos. “The antidrug campaign has not ended”, warn Cornelio and Lasco (2020, p. 338), and “there are no indications that the public wants it ended”. “The campaign”, Lara and De La Rosa (2020, p. 4) note, “has elicited wide public support within the country and from Filipinos living abroad”. Notwithstanding the human rights violations inherent in the war on drugs, many Filipinos support it because illicit drugs symbolise the Republic’s widespread corruption and inefficiency (Holden, 2021). Much of Duterte’s support comes from middle-class people, or as Curato (2017b, p. 148) described them, “middle class and educated employees in call centers and banks”. Tusalem (2019, p. 78) described Duterte’s supporters as “an expanding middle class that has now been anxious about criminality, rampant smuggling, incompetence, and government corruption”.
Dangers inherent in researching the war on drugs In Jonathan Miller’s 2018 book Rodrigo Duterte: Fire and Fury in the Philippines, Miller stated several of his sources had received warnings they were on a target
Fear and loathing in the Philippines 155 list for having publicly criticised Duterte. Similarly, several people interviewed by Amnesty International (2019) feared reprisals against them, or their family members, if it became known they had spoken with the human rights organisation. The urban poor communities, where most of the killings in the war on drugs have occurred, are rife with informants reporting on the presence of human rights activists. As Human Rights Watch (2017, p. 25) wrote, “The impoverished urban neighborhoods where most killings have taken place have a high presence of police informants who can be expected to pass on information about human rights investigations into alleged abuses by the police”. The Philippines is a dangerous place for human rights activists. From January 2015 to December 2019, 208 human rights defenders, journalists, and trade unionists were killed (Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, 2020). In August 2019, 1 week before I arrived in the archipelago, Brandon Lee, an American human rights volunteer for the Ifugao Peasant Movement, a farmers’ group opposing a hydropower project and militarisation, was shot, and badly injured in the Cordillera Administrative Region (Gunia, 2019). Given these dangers, it was necessary to take great care in ensuring the safety of all research participants. Care had to be taken in how participants were initially contacted, how interviews were arranged, where interviews occurred, how interview data were processed, and how participants were referred to in the research outputs. Referring to participants by their real names would put them in danger so pseudonyms were used. No oppositional research was conducted wherein members of the police, or employees of local government units, were interviewed. Interviewing those widely believed to be responsible for conducting the war on drugs would almost certainly put me in danger or under surveillance and, in turn, leave my participants subject to enhanced risks.
The ethics application process In August 2018, I reached out to the staff at the Conjoint Faculties Research Ethics Board (CFREB) at my university and had an extensive telephone conversation with a staff member about the research project. During October and November 2018, I began preparing an application to the CFREB, which was submitted in December 2018. Not wanting to mislead the CFREB about the risks inherent in the application, I expressly marked the application as high-risk. Immediately upon receiving my application, the CFREB emailed me and instructed me to attend a full board meeting in January 2019. To prepare for the meeting, I had another telephone conversation with the CFREB where I provided more information about the project, as well as literature about the war on drugs in the Philippines. The full board CFREB meeting was an intense process, lasting almost two hours. The board consisted of approximately ten other academics who alternated asking a series of questions about the project. After the meeting, the application was approved, subject to several strict conditions. I was directed to contact potential interview partners by email but was told to simply ask for an “interview about the situation in the Philippines”, without stipulating more details in case
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the communications of interview partners were being intercepted. All interviews were required to be conducted under a strict condition of anonymity. Interview partners were provided with a consent form setting out the nature of the project and explaining the interview process. The consent form was to be signed by me, but not by the participants, and I was prohibited from keeping any record of the actual identities of those who had been interviewed and where they had been interviewed. To avoid interviewing people suffering from posttraumatic stress injuries, no family members of victims of the war on drugs could be interviewed. To avoid contacting people involved in illegal activity, no contact with people involved in the drug trade could be made. No oppositional research could be conducted wherein members of the police, or employees of local government units, were interviewed. I was also exempted from seeking a subsequent ethics approval from any ethics board in the Philippines. This exemption was granted out of a desire to protect my participants. It was felt that making an application for ethics approval from an ethics board in the Philippines would alert the Duterte Regime to the research project, cause me to be placed under surveillance, and reveal the identities, and locations, of people participating in the research project.
Implementing the ethics conditions in the field The interviews were conducted with 29 key informants selected for their knowledge of the topic. Some writers, such as Patrick Winn, use “field producers”, or “fixers”, to facilitate their interviews. According to Winn (2019, p. xxviii), a “field producer can arrange tricky interviews, negotiate access to hidden places, and distract authorities who intend to sabotage your reporting”. No “field producers”, or “fixers”, were used to facilitate my interviews. This was done to prevent a third party from knowing who I had interviewed, and when and where those interviews were conducted. All interviews were arranged, either through personal relationships established on my ten previous trips to the Philippines, direct communications with interview partners, or through a snowballing method of recruitment where interview partners arranged contact with other interview partners. When snowballing was used, care was taken to pass my contact information to potential participants rather than providing me with the contact information of potential participants. This was done to protect the identity, and contact information, of potential participants and to give them agency over whether they wished to contact me. One of the first participants provided my contact information to three other participants, all of whom contacted me by email within 24 hours of the initial interview occurring, thus making this a highly productive interview. When an interview was arranged, the date, time, and location of the interview were written down on a 3″ by 5″ index card, which would then be destroyed at the beginning of the interview. With this process, I never had any record of who was interviewed, and when and where the interviews were conducted. Interviews occurred in locations where the presence of a middle-aged non-Filipino would not attract attention such as the offices of non-governmental organisations (NGOs), church facilities, coffee shops, and mall food courts.
Fear and loathing in the Philippines 157 One interview with a priest (occurring spontaneously while attending mass and hearing the officiating priest make comments about the war on drugs in his homily) took place in a church between masses. The issue of “outsider status” never emerged as the participants were highly educated people who would have had extensive routine contacts with non-Filipinos in their own activism, either through contacts with foreign academics, activists, or diplomats. No interviews occurred in urban poor communities. Informants included human rights activists (including children’s rights advocates), climate change activists, development activists, drug reform activists, environmental activists, journalists, photojournalists, urban poor activists, and members of the Roman Catholic Church (an influential institution in the Philippines). The interviews were semi-structured, with preconceived questions being asked, while reserving flexibility allowing the pursuit of unanticipated lines of discussion emerging during the interview. A preliminary interview guide was utilised, with certain questions tailored to specific participants, depending on their roles, experience, and expertise. All interviews were conducted in English as the respondents were educated people speaking fluent English. On some occasions, participants answered questions using phrases in vernacular languages, which we translated into English. At the outset of each interview, the participants were provided with two lists of pseudonyms (one of the male names printed on blue paper and one of the female names printed on pink paper) from which they selected a pseudonym by which they were referred in the notes taken during the interview and throughout the book. The pseudonyms were traditional English first names, and this was done to provide names which were not “Filipino sounding” and to better protect the identities of participants. In some instances, the interviewee requested a pseudonym inconsistent with their gender to provide additional protection of their identity. No interviews were recorded, but handwritten notes were taken. After the interview, the handwritten notes were carefully rewritten, scanned, and remotely stored on the mainframe computer at my university. Storing the scanned notes on the mainframe computer required the use of a password-protected virtual private network, to connect with the mainframe, and the use of another password-protected software to upload the scanned notes. The research was dangerous. Nearly, all the offices of human rights organisations visited lacked signage, or even street numbers, and were thus difficult to find; interviewees indicated this was done to make their locations more difficult for the police to locate. Many participants expressed concerns about their safety as well as my own. In one interview, the participant had an armed bodyguard with them during the interview. At another interview, the interviewee was met in a coffee shop near the building hosting their office; we then entered the building through an underground parkade and took the stairs to the office. At two locations where interviews were conducted, participants indicated the exteriors of their offices were under physical surveillance and care should be taken when leaving to prevent being followed. After one of these interviews, I noticed someone on a motorcycle eyeing me while leaving the office. I quickly crossed the street, to be walking against the traffic, and prevented what could have been potential pursuit
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by this person. Surveillance detection protocols (such as continually making sure I was never being followed) were used right up until my departure from the Philippines and, when this occurred, I had arranged with the Commission on Human Rights to contact them should a problem occur while going through emigration at Ninoy Aquino International Airport. Indeed, there were some nervous moments at the airport when I was directed to proceed through a line reserved for diplomatic passport holders. However, this was only done to alleviate traffic at some of the other emigration counters and the pleasant lady working there barely even looked at my passport before stamping it “departed”. Nevertheless, the experience remained anxiety inducing. The conditions imposed by the CFREB were helpful to the research process. The direction to contact potential interview partners by email and to simply ask for an “interview about the situation in the Philippines”, without stipulating more details, was extremely helpful. At one interview the person being interviewed began the interview by asking, “what do you want to interview me about?” When it was indicated that it was about the war on drugs the interviewee immediately stated, “if you had told me that in your email, I would have never emailed you back but since you are here, I will allow the interview to proceed”. The strict requirement of anonymity, rigorous use of pseudonyms, and lack of audio recording safeguarded the participants. After interviews were arranged, no effort was made to remember the actual identities of those interviewed and, in 8 of the 29 interviews, I cannot recall their actual identities. The use of anonymity, and lack of audio recording, encouraged free, and frank, discussions with those interviewed. During one interview, the participant began answering a question making an obvious effort to comply with the official position of their organisation, then paused, recalled how the interview was being conducted anonymously, and provided a very different answer. Exempting me from seeking subsequent ethics approval in the Philippines was also helpful because, according to Dr. Paul, a medical doctor interviewed on September 11, 2019, securing ethics approval to do research on drugs in the Philippines is virtually impossible. If a subsequent application for ethics approval in the Philippines had been made, the process would have been long, drawn out, and almost certainly unsuccessful. To an extent, the conditions also hindered the research process. As indicated earlier, I was prohibited from contacting anyone involved in the drug trade and one of the book’s anonymous reviewers criticised the book’s absence of an indepth discussion of the Philippine drug trade. However, it is unclear exactly where the methamphetamine in the Philippines comes from and who is responsible for trafficking it (Holden, 2021). “With regard to country-specific information about the causes of serious organized crime”, wrote Idris (2019, p. 3), “little was found in the literature on the Philippines”. Father Amos, a Roman Catholic Priest interviewed on August 17, 2019, stated real hard-nosed analysis of drug importation into the archipelago is not being researched by the academic world and it is unclear where the drugs come from. To Father Amos, most academics are reluctant to engage in this type of research and the only people doing this research are intelligence agents who do not need to seek ethics approval for their work.
Fear and loathing in the Philippines 159 As also indicated earlier, no oppositional research was conducted wherein PNP members, or local government employees, were interviewed. One of the book’s anonymous reviewers was critical of my lack of oppositional research pointing out how it made no reference to government officials, especially the PNP and local government officials. I was, however, able to find anonymous interviews of police officers in other sources and use those sources in addressing the knowledge lacuna (Amnesty International 2017). Again, though, it bears emphasis that an absence of oppositional research on my behalf was done for ethics reasons, namely, to protect my other participants who were standing in contradistinction to the war on drugs. The requirement of strict anonymity also, in some cases, placed limits on conducting interviews with high-profile officials. Some of the interviewees were extremely influential people in the Philippines, highly knowledgeable about the war on drugs, but their identities, and thus the extent of their knowledge, could not be revealed to give my work more legitimacy and depth. I was also concerned the requirement of strict anonymity could generate an allegation being made that I was referencing fictitious interviews. This allegation was never made (and no fictitious interviews were referenced), but I still harboured concerns about the potential for such an allegation to be made. Accordingly, care was taken to verify highly controversial allegations made by interview participants with similar claims found in peer-reviewed sources. Amber, a woman’s rights activist, interviewed on September 2, 2019, raised allegations of men being arrested and being released by the police only after their wives performed sex acts for the police. These allegations have been repeated by Willis and Lopez (2019, p. 42) who wrote, “Women have been extorted for sex in exchange for the safety of their male family members”. Amber also alleged the police will sometimes arrest children and then molest girls prior to turning them over to the Department of Social Welfare and Development. These allegations have been repeated by Kim et al. (2017, p. 422) who stated, “some girls are sexually abused during which they are asked to choose hirap o sarap (pain or pleasure) in exchange for release”. Father Vincent, a Roman Catholic Priest interviewed on September 23, 2019, pointed out how the killings started right after Duterte was elected President on May 30, 2016, but prior to his inauguration on June 30, 2016. Father Vincent suspected many initial victims were people who knew about police involvement in the drug trade and were dangerous to the police, so they were eliminated quickly prior to talking. These allegations were repeated by Calimbahin (2018, p. 336) who stated, The initial spate of violence was considered by some as perhaps the “cleansing” or killing of runners and middlemen by elements of the police who live a double life as crime fighter and criminal. They were killing individuals who might whistle blow on them regarding their participation in the illicit trade. On one occasion, I attended a photography display where pictures taken by the nightcrawlers were displayed. At this event, three mothers of young men killed in the war on drugs were attending, but the prohibition on interviewing family members of victims of the war on drugs prohibited them from being interviewed.
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I also met a young man who had sought sanctuary in a Catholic Church facility but refrained from asking him for an interview due to concerns that interviewing him could act as a trigger for posttraumatic stress – something I had assured the CFREB I would avoid doing.
Lessons from the ethics process There are numerous lessons to be gleaned from the research project and the preceding ethics approval. First, a researcher must never view ethics approval as a bureaucratic “hoop” one is forced to jump through. Conducting research involving people can have serious consequences. What if no ethics approval had been sought, the police had been interviewed, and then I was placed under surveillance and, through this surveillance, the police had determined the location of another research participant? This could have resulted in someone being killed. What if no ethics approval had been sought and participants were referred to by name? This also could have resulted in someone being killed. What if no ethics approval had been sought and the interviews were recorded? These recordings could have fallen into the hands of the police and, through them, the identities of participants could have been ascertained. In any event, even if the CFREB had allowed interviews to have been recorded I would not have done such because, at the beginning of my career, a sociology graduate student interviewed me about my acquisition of a tenure track job. The interview was recorded, and I found the recording of the interview to be unbearably intrusive and provided guarded answers to all questions. Only after her recording device was turned off did I say anything even remotely meaningful. From this experience, I came to have a strong aversion to the intrusive nature of recording devices during interviews and, not wanting my interviewees to feel as I felt, have eschewed them ever since. In the field, a researcher must always be prepared to comply with the conditions of their ethics approval – the old hockey adage of always keeping one’s stick on the ice. The spontaneous interview of the priest, occurring when the priest made comments about the war on drugs in his homily, was only possible because I had consent forms, pencils, and note paper with me at the mass. As soon as the mass ended, I approached the priest, introduced myself, provided a consent form, and conducted the interview. At the end of the interview, the Priest stated, “thank for caring enough about our country to conduct this research!” Publishers often require a discussion of whether institutional ethics approval has been sought. If publishers do not expressly require a discussion of whether institutional ethics approval has been sought, some publishers may require the signed written consent of all interview partners quoted. My publisher required the signed written consent of all interview partners quoted or else the use of anonymous interviews; indeed, the final act performed by my publisher before sending the manuscript to press was to double-check the anonymity of all interviews cited in the manuscript. Even if publishers do not require a demonstration of compliance with institutional ethics approval, reviewers often will. In my original book manuscript, I only allocated 24 words to explain how the research project
Fear and loathing in the Philippines 161 complied with the ethics requirements of the CFREB. I was taken to task by a reviewer for not explaining my ethical processes: This piece’s problem is whether this manuscript was approved by the author’s university “Institutional Review Board” (IRB) as the manuscript does not tell us if the author went through the process. This may sometimes be a tedious academic detail. Still, given how highly delicate the topic is (a government’s war on drugs against mainly the poor), I think the university has to sign in on how the author was able to gather data from his respondents, many of who – as the author states at the onset – know they could be potential targets of state forces (how else to explain the extra precaution the author had set up to be able to interview the respondents?). I agree wholeheartedly that these stories have to be told, but I also believe that the authors’ interaction with his/her respondents should come with his/her school’s blessings. In response to this criticism, I expanded the discussion of compliance with the CFREB requirements, providing greater context and clarity regarding the ethics approvals granted and the conditions requested by the CFREB. Another important lesson from this research project is the importance of engaging an ethics board early, particularly if the research project is high-risk. My first contact with the CFREB came in August 2018, 4 months before the application was made, 5 months before the CFREB board meeting, and a year before the fieldwork began. If a researcher engages their ethics board during the formative stage of a research project, this will provide an early perspective on what will, and will not, be allowed in the field and can shape the direction of the research project. Engaging an ethics board late, perhaps after a field trip has been planned, is a recipe for disaster. The board will want to acquire as much information as possible from the applicant, and they will want to make their decision carefully, and this will require time. Poor planning on the researcher’s behalf will not constitute an automatic emergency on the ethics board’s behalf! Under no circumstances should a researcher understate the risks of a research project. In this case, I made it clear in the first contact with the CFREB that this would be a high-risk research project. This made a full board CFREB meeting inevitable but, ironically, I found the full board meeting helpful and preferred this to an iterative application process without a full board meeting. Also, understating the risks of a research project will only make things more complicated when it comes out that protocols must be changed to increase participant safety once the process is underway. Researchers should listen to the suggestions of a research ethics board. At the CFREB meeting, one of the board members suggested I employ the conceptual framework of noble cause corruption, the situation where the police commit crimes such as planting evidence, even murder, because they believe they are doing “the right thing” (Buttle et al., 2016; Delattre, 2011; Van Haldern & Kolthoff, 2017). This suggestion was helpful to the author, and noble cause corruption became one of the four conceptual frameworks (along with penal populism, revanchism,
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and state terrorism) used in the book. What made this framework so helpful is the widespread belief most killings are conducted by the police and Duterte’s promise to shield PNP members from prosecution for killing people involved with drugs (Holden, 2021). Promises from the superiors of police officers of protection from prosecution are regarded as an important contributor to noble cause corruption (Loyens, 2014). The suggestion from the board member was made almost in passing but was instrumental in the book being accepted for publication. While this suggestion was not part of the main discussion pertaining to research ethics, the context of the full board discussion helped introduce me to further conceptual and theoretical concepts that helped inform the research process. Ethics board members are also researchers and are highly knowledgeable about how to conduct research. Suggestions from them early in a research project can be extremely helpful and can shape the whole direction of a research project. This should certainly dispel the notion that an ethics process is a bureaucratic “hoop” one is forced to jump through. Even for projects that ultimately do not require a full board meeting, researchers are always advised to contact their research ethics boards to consult well in advance about their proposed projects.
Conclusion The war on drugs is a violent campaign where the government of the Philippines has extrajudicially killed thousands of its own citizens. This was a dangerous, and sensitive, topic to research but I was able to safely do so by complying with the ethics protocols of my academic institution. These protocols included interviews conducted under a strict condition of anonymity where interviewees were referred to by pseudonyms they selected. An ethics application is not a mere administrative hoop a researcher is forced to jump through; it is an essential component of engaging with people in criminological research, especially those in dangerous circumstances. Publishers will often require proof of compliance with an ethics process, as will reviewers. When making an ethics application for a dangerous topic, a researcher should engage their research board early in the process, when the research project is still in its formative stages, and under no circumstances should a researcher understate the risks inherent in their research project. In the field, a researcher must always be prepared to comply with the conditions of their ethics approval. Indeed, conditions of one’s ethics approval should become hardwired into a researcher and must always be contemplated while the fieldwork is in process. It is perhaps too easy for a researcher, coming from a safe and secure “ivory tower” context to consider not undertaking such a research project, not for lack of concern about the situation on the ground in the field (with its associated dangers) but because they may presume the ethics hill as too steep to climb. Too often ethics boards are casually dismissed as overzealous in their need to protect participants and researchers who feel this way may be deterred from even contemplating such a research project. This guarantees failure because, as another old hockey adage says, one hundred percent of the shots you do not take do not go in!
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References Amnesty International. (2017). “If you are poor, you are killed.” Extrajudicial executions in the Philippines’ “War on drugs.” Author. Amnesty International. (2019). “They just kill”: Ongoing extrajudicial executions and other violations in the Philippines “War on drugs.” Author. Berehulak, D. (2016). They are slaughtering us like animals. New York Times. Retrieved September 7, 2020, from www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/12/07/world/asia/rodrigoduterte-philippines-drugs-killings.html?_r=1 Buttle, J. W., Davies, S. G., & Meliala, A. E. (2016). A cultural constraints theory of police corruption: Understanding the persistence of police corruption in contemporary Indonesia. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Criminology, 49(3), 437–454. Calimbahin, C. (2018). An ambivalent state: The crossover of corruption and violence in the Philippines. In B. Warf (Ed.), Handbook on the geographies of corruption (pp. 331– 349). Edward Elgar. Cornelio, J. S., & Lasco, G. (2020). Morality politics: Drug use and the catholic church in the Philippines. Open Theology, 6, 327–341. Curato, N. (2017a). We need to talk about Rody. In N. Curato (Ed.), A Duterte reader: Critical essays on Rodrigo Duterte’s early presidency (pp. 1–36). Cornell University Press. Curato, N. (2017b). Flirting with authoritarian fantasies? Rodrigo Duterte and the new terms of Philippine populism. Journal of Contemporary Asia, 47(1), 142–153. Delattre, E. J. (2011). Character and cops: Ethics in policing. The AEI Press. Gallagher, A., Raffle, E., & Maulana, Z. (2020). Failing to fulfil the responsibility to protect: The war on drugs as crimes against humanity in the Philippines. The Pacific Review, 33(2), 247–277. Gunia, A. (2019). American volunteer branded ‘enemy of state’ and shot outside his home in the Philippines. Retrieved June 8, 2021, from https://time.com/5647219/ brandon-lee-volunteer-shot-philippines/ Hart, C. L. (2021). Drug use for grown ups: Chasing liberty in the land of fear. Penguin Press. Holden, W. N. (2009). Ashes from the phoenix: State terrorism and the party-list groups in the Philippines. Contemporary Politics, 15(4), 377–393. Holden, W. N. (2011). Neoliberalism and state terrorism in the Philippines: The fingerprints of phoenix. Critical Studies on Terrorism, 4(3), 331–350. Holden, W. N. (2012). A neoliberal landscape of terror: Extrajudicial killings in the Philippines. ACME: An International E-Journal for Critical Geographies, 11(1), 145–176. Holden, W. N. (2021). President Rodrigo Duterte and the war on drugs: Fear and loathing in the Philippines. Lexington Books. Human Rights Watch. (2017). License to kill: Philippine police killings in Duterte’s “war on drugs.” Author. Idris, I. (2019). Drivers and enablers of serious organized crime in Southeast Asia. K4D Helpdesk Report 655. Institute of Development Studies. Kim, E., Dinco, J., Suamen, L., Haynes, M., & Papsch, T. (2017). The impact of securitisation on marginalised groups in the Asia Pacific: Humanising the threats to security in cases from the Philippines, Indonesia and China. Global Campus Human Rights Journal, 1(2), 414–434. Lara, F. J., & De La Rosa, N. P. C. (2020). Collusion or collision? The war on drugs in the Philippines. Estudios Socio-Jurídicos, Bogotá (Colombia), 22(2), 1–51.
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Lasco, G. (2014). Pampagilas: Methamphetamine in the everyday economic lives of underclass male youths in a Philippine Port. International Journal of Drug Policy, 25, 783–788. Lasco, G. (2018). Kalaban: Young drug users’ engagements with law enforcement in the Philippines. International Journal of Drug Policy, 52, 39–44. Loyens, K. (2014). Rule bending by morally disengaged detectives: An ethnographic study. Police Practice and Research, 15(1), 62–74. McCoy, A. W. (2017). In the shadows of the American century: The rise and decline of US global power. Haymarket Books. Miller, J. (2018). Rodrigo Duterte: Fire and Fury in the Philippines. Scribe. Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. (2020). Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the situation of Human Rights in the Philippines. Author. Pardo, B., Kilmer, B., and Huang., W. (2019). Contemporary Asian Drug Policy: Insights and Opportunities for Change. Rand Corporation. Parenti, C. (2011). Tropic of chaos: Climate change and the new geography of violence. Nation Books. Picardal, A. L. (2016). The priesthood in a church renewed: Priestly ministry & spirituality based on Vatican II & PCP II vision. Claretian Communications. Presidential Communications Office. (2017). The Duterte administration year-end report: 2017 Key accomplishments. Author. Pulitzer Prizes. (2017). Daniel Berehulak, Freelance Photographer. Retrieved October 20, 2021, from www.pulitzer.org/winners/daniel-berehulak-freelance-photographer Regilme, S. S. F. (2021). Visions of peace amidst a Human Rights crisis: War on drugs in Colombia and the Philippines. Journal of Global Security Studies, 6(2), 1–19. Rolles, S. (2017). Legalizing drugs: The key to ending the war. New Internationalist Publications. Sy, M. P., Bontje, P., Ohshima, N., & Kiepek, N. (2020). Articulating the form, function, and meaning of drug use in the Philippines from the lens of morality and work ethics. Journal of Occupational Science, 27(1), 12–21. Theriault, N. (2020). Euphemisms we die by: On eco-anxiety, necropolitics, and green authoritarianism in the Philippines. In J. Maskovsky & S. Bjork-James (Eds.), Beyond populism: Angry politics and the twilight of neoliberalism (pp. 182–205). University of West Virginia Press. Tusalem, R. F. (2019). Examining the determinants of extra-judicial killings in the Philippines at the subnational level: The role of penal populism and vertical accountability. Human Rights Review, 20(1), 67–101. United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. (2018). Professional peer review of the UNODC Research Foundation. Division for Policy Analysis and Public Affairs, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. (2019). World drug report 2019. Division for Policy Analysis and Public Affairs, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Van Haldern, R. C., & Kolthoff, E. (2017). Noble cause corruption revisited: Toward a structured research approach. Public Integrity, 19, 274–293. Willis, A., & Lopez, E. (2019). Church vs. state: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s brutal but popular war on drugs has forced the catholic church to ask itself a defining question: What is its responsibility under an immoral regime?” Virginia Quarterly Review, 95(2), 38–55. Winn, P. (2019). Hello, shadowlands: Inside the meth fiefdoms, rebel hideouts, and bombscarred party towns of Southeast Asia. Icon Books.
12 Conclusion An ethical imagination Michael Adorjan and Rosemary Ricciardelli
One of the more meaningful responses we have received from our contributors as they prepared their chapters for this volume is how making explicit, through writing, the ethical dilemmas and how they grappled with them during the course of their research served as a form of release, even catharsis. These are experiences that remain, proverbially, under the radar, not recognised and perhaps not even relevant to formal ethics board applications and processes. Conversations regarding research ethics and experiences go on in academic corridors, lunches, and conferences – all venues denuded of their interactional efficacy following the onset of COVID-19. Informal discussions, for the time being, may be restricted, leaving researchers isolated while they navigate ethical complexities, which can feel like barriers, especially when conducting particularly sensitive research on or with vulnerable populations. Training is required, of course, for all researchers to ensure a basic knowledge regarding research ethics protocols and processes. In Canada, researchers require TCPS2 (Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans) training and upon completion receive a certificate that is uploaded to their university’s online ethics portal. Yet there is no training for the more subtle but emotionally embroiling dilemmas and interactions that can entail emotional labour for researchers well beyond the data collection period of their research. In this collection, we aimed to front stage what is often a back stage, informal conversation. In doing so, the audiences, we feel, benefitting from this book are not only seasoned criminologists (including those who have contributed) but graduate students and those considering such research, alongside their supervisors, who may benefit from the foregrounding of challenges that may impact a researcher’s mental health and well-being.
Navigating organisational collaborations In this collection, we discuss at length the challenges of conducting criminological research, from ethical approvals to recruitment to conducting research to writing up results. Thus, ethics need to be considered and reconsidered as a research project progresses (Israel, 2014). Although ethics boards have the requirement to report on breaches of ethics as they arise, and update boards on revisions to DOI:10.4324/9781003241515-12
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methodology and where changes affect potential risk to participants, researchers are presumed to have responsibility to make adjustments as needed in response to often dynamic and changing definitions of the situation. While preparing applications, some of the central questions to consider are: (1) Does the research design match the goals and questions proposed? (2) Are stakeholders aware of possible emergent areas of study or the very fact that new areas may (and will) emerge? (3) Are participants comfortable with the scope of the project and how their words and experiences will be represented? Challenges may arise, particularly in qualitative research, where findings steer research (often naturally and fluidly) in a direction different from that proposed to the ethics board and in the study itself. Where this is most concerning is when research is partnered. For example, if a researcher collaborates with a police service to conduct a study of their mental health programming and their findings indicate a need to focus on peer support development, such findings would likely be still appropriate to underscore as long as communication was forthcoming and there is transparency in the process of producing these findings. But, if a researcher received a police service’s permission to ask police about mental health programming and instead asked explicit questions about, say, sexism in mental health treatment, we may ask if their point of data collection would be inauthentic to the permission provided and to what the organisation agreed. The researcher may feel that exploring sexism is relevant, ethical, and not a divergence from permissions and agreements, though organisations may not agree, creating tensions between researchers, organisations such as police, and potentially wider research communities. On this point, Moxon and Waters cite Israel (2004, p. 718), who outlin[es] the consequentialist case for confidentiality, suggest[ing] that “researchers who break confidences might not only make it more difficult for themselves to continue researching but, by damaging the possibility that potential participants will trust researchers, might also disrupt the work of other social scientists”. If at the outset the methodological framework is transparently discussed with an organisation, be it police, correctional services, or other non-governmental organisations, where a semi-structured interview design permits novel and relevant directions to be pursued, this may be ethical. Data can take researchers on different paths, but there is always a need to communicate change and provide opportunities for stakeholders to withdraw their participation upfront. Our point being that ethics is always in situ and in process. Organisations may, importantly, not have the same understandings of what a “semi-structured interview” entails, and such presumptions may also produce ethical problems and at worse, breaches of trust. The wider implication for academic communities is a theme raised in number of our chapters. Breaches of trust certainly impact most directly the particular researchers and organisations involved. Yet there are implications for how rapport and trust, or lack thereof, play a role impacting whether other potential scholars are welcomed, or ostracised, from particular organisations. Ethics are central
to how data are anonymized, presented, and even interpreted. Data collection processes may detail what can be quoted verbatim versus paraphrased, but once published, the researcher is responsible to ensure confidentiality. Moreover, and in tension with academic knowledge production, how data are nuanced and presented must always represent the experiences of those who share their stories. Failing to do so may produce criminological insights but may leave participants feeling misrepresented, unheard, and even violated. The epistemology of representation is central here. The consequences here are detrimental, possibly impacting relationships in the field and stakeholders’ abilities to trust researchers. Data that fail to meet the needs of stakeholders may produce animosity and feelings of being used, even violated, and weary of future collaboration or participation in research. Thus, trust can be breached and future collaborative work is no longer possible, not only between particular researchers and organisations but also wider communities of scholars. This itself leads to very significant questions with large ethical implications which are beyond the purview of this book. Arnold and Ricciardelli quote Holdaway (1983, p. 9), who “recognised that conditions of stress were created as a result of the tension . . . experienced ‘from working with officers who did not share my values and assumptions about policing’”. This leads to the question of to what extent “deception” from researchers engaged with organisations such as police is justified – or we may ask if there are more fine-grained ways to consider what constitutes deception in research, as Sandhu discusses in this volume. These concerns are also relevant for evidence-based police research, as Huey argues in this collection. Huey asks about the extent to which deception in research is engendering distrust and exacerbating animosity between police and policing scholars. To what extent are researchers incentivized to background what they “really” think and feel while engaging with police or other criminal justice organisations, to develop the rapport necessary to proceed with interviews and observations, as Sandhu asks. Moreover, how is this “deception” creating challenges for those seeking to foster positive relations with police, with the aim to produce actionable knowledge correcting problems, where found, from within the organisation. At the same time, to what extent is evidence-based scholarship able to render explicit the goal of addressing systemic problems, well recognised, within police organisations: a denial of racism and racial profiling, excessive use of force, public–police distrust and militarisation of policing, and so forth. At its core, is it ethical, given these challenges to collaborate with police at all? Are there ethical dilemmas for researchers who choose not to collaborate with police? These are crucial conversations that deserve sustained engagement in not only books such as this but also conferences, talks, and other public forums.
Are considerations of research ethics ever finished? Challenges and choices regarding knowledge dissemination In certain cases, researchers find themselves in situations of vulnerability where disclosing their intentions for research, and status as researchers may endanger
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their security. Holden’s chapter explores this amply, where, for instance, local ethics board approvals which could ideally be more culturally sensitive and attuned to local circumstances may alert police and other authorities to research designed to explore issues of corruption and crime among these same officials. Holden’s chapter also examines what we strongly feel should be a topic of further discussion: ethical considerations involving knowledge dissemination after the conclusion of the research. In Canada, like other countries, funding agencies are increasingly concerned about knowledge translation after the conclusion of data analysis. This is significant, especially when fostering, or maintaining, more longstanding relations with publics. Knowledge translation practices now figure centrally in funding applications in their own right, and point to relatively new pressures on researchers to produce publicly accessible scholarship. Ethics are key to knowledge dissemination, although only a light mark on an ethical review board application (i.e. only a few questions may pertain to reports and research outcomes). Some of the ethical issues that may arise during the dissemination of data are how researchers become challenged in the publication process regarding careful methodological choices made to protect participants. Holden recounts how publication reviewers questioned his book’s lack of details regarding the Philippine drug trade – details lacking because of the efforts Holden took to protect participant confidentiality and maintain trust. Holden writes “one of the book’s anonymous reviewers was critical of my lack of oppositional research pointing out how it made no reference to government officials, especially the PNP and local government officials”. Such responses suggest how ethical decisions need to be more overtly considered in peer-review processes, and that more conversations are needed about how adherence to ethical processes may truncate the scope of data collection, but which may be important to protect all parties involved. Contributors in this volume spoke about ethical choices that needed to be made early in the data collection phases of research, anticipating how findings would be published. Khiatani and Chui write about research with politically active youth, observing: Among the few that took the opportunity, they generally voiced concern over being “found”, for example through data spillage or being identified in publications, and thus sought to learn more details about the approach taken to safeguard their data and identity. A number of our contributors write about ethical dilemmas engendered from research with vulnerable populations, from politically active young people who risk criminal charges for their illegal activism in Hong Kong (Khiatani and Chui), to those facing arrest for speaking out against their government’s policies (Holden). Others examine populations we may not consider vulnerable in the same way. Moxon and Waters’ chapter, for instance, elaborates on the ethical dilemmas facing researchers examining populations often difficult for researchers to access, in their case “hidden” older illegal drug users. These are people who may have
financial and social standing, families, and peer networks unaware of their drug use, who have good reason to remain hidden from public visibility. Writing about all phases of research design and data collection, Moxon and Waters write: After the data collection was completed, ethical protocols assumed great importance as we now held potentially incriminating information that required careful handling to ensure the ongoing protection of our participants and to make good the assurances we had given to them initially. [original emphasis] Moxon and Waters argue that careful adherence to ethical protocols and communication with participants about their rights, confidentiality in publication, and related issues greatly helps pre-empt problems with recruitment and ethical breaches later during dissemination of findings. They write: Our intuition was to cede control of the interview process itself to the participants and allow them to take the lead on what they felt comfortable in revealing. As such, our approach was consistent with “rights based” justifications for confidentiality. (Israel, 2004, p. 718) This “intuition” is an important reference to the need for researchers to adjust to fluid, unpredictable circumstances, but also it suggests an ethical imagination regarding decisions made during data collection that will have a large impact during data dissemination. Researchers as vulnerable: emotional labour Beyond the publication of formal research results, the experiences of researchers themselves during the course of conducting research often exist in the shadows. A number of our contributors centre on the emotional labour involved while navigating ethical issues and dilemmas (Hochschild, 1979). Little weight is given by ethics boards to those risks relating to the emotional well-being or mental health of the researcher (Melrose, 2002) and, for some researchers, the likelihood of unexpectedly encountering information that is emotionally distressing during the research process is not covered by the ethics process. Todd-Kvam and Rodrigues, for instance, talk about the challenges of doing research on the victims of Pablo Escobar, speaking to the emotional labour and potential vicarious trauma that underpins the task of interviewing individuals who have experienced psychological trauma. They provide a proverbial roadmap to collecting such sensitive data and the value of a trauma-informed lens in research processes. Moreover, examining “the role of emotions in criminological research, not just in terms of their existence but also what they may add to the research process”, as Lowe and Ridgway state in their chapter, is important to consider. For Lowe and Ridgway, emotional labour was involved while navigating formal and informal
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aspects of research engagements with participants. Sometimes these lines are very clear – informed consent is transparently discussed, conditions of withdrawal and data destruction likewise, and the “end” to a research study, for participants at least, is clearly demarcated by the conclusion of an interview or completion of a survey. At other times, however, participants may be drawn from networks of peers or groups the researcher is involved with, sometimes informally, over long periods of time. These concerns were raised in Lowe and Ridgway’s research with expatriate populations in Hong Kong, while attending informal social engagements during, and also well after formal data collection. When participants are drawn from existing peer groups, or when participants become peers over a period of time, when is the researcher not “on”, especially when snowball sampling draws out the role peers play in recruitment? Is the researcher in these sorts of circumstances ever “off” altogether? Lowe and Ridgeway explore such questions and detail how they responded in their chapter. Anna Eriksson also writes about being “always on” in navigating research with two antagonistic groups in Northern Ireland. In her case, participants did not include peer networks, but similar challenges of representation became salient, often through what may appear to be informal and innocuous small talk – questions about one’s preference in music, for instance. Similar to Ajay Sandhu, Eriksson also questioned the extent to which performances of self became deceitful – itself an ethical dilemma. In a different context still, Arnold and Ricciardelli recall participating in correctional officer training programmes where the lines became quickly blurred regarding formal research interactions and more informal interactions involving at times gossip and disclosures inappropriate to the original intent and vision of the project. The informal dynamics braided to formal research protocols has implications for “reflecting on when to leave, managing the relationships formed, and deciding whether to return”, as noted by Arnold and Ricciardelli, citing Wincup (2017, p. 76). As noted by others in this volume too, if rapport and trust are damaged based on this informal braiding, “the researcher’s departure, if misunderstood or viewed unfavourably by the research participants, may strongly affect the efforts of future researchers in the same or similar settings” (Wincup, 2017, p. 76). Jelinic too speaks to the emotional labour tied to studying and clinically practicing within the same population. She situates her positionality as a researcher in a field in which she also is a practitioner; thus, she has access and trust but must toe-the-line between service provider and researcher. She explains that she is responsible, most wholly, for the well-being of her research participants because she also provides them with wellness support, and each has experienced potential psychological trauma. Vulnerable populations and sensitive research topics as concepts take on new meaning: that of protecting the wellness of the population researched within the simultaneous restrictions of clinical practice and responsibility alongside ethical adherence. Beyond the nuance of occupying such a complicated space, she also speaks of a different source of emotional labour – that of the antagonism between a faculty member and ethics committee – and how such antagonism can influence how a researcher engages with ethics throughout
the research process. She describes emotions, from frustration to anxiety, which defined her experiences. As such, Jelinic unpacks the reality that in research, in some ways the very processes at play to protect participants can hinder their participation and the project’s success, while, in other ways, positionality may offer “responses to ethical dilemmas that often remain unexamined in these same traditional research institutions”.
Further directions for ethical considerations Despite the wide range of ethical issues and challenges discussed by the contributors to this volume, as well as our previous volume, there are many more to consider. A number of contributors discuss ethical challenges, for instance, related to ethnographic research. Arnold and Ricciardelli touch on the question of women who spent notable time away from peers and family to conduct their research. These questions deserve further consideration; relatively unexplored are the gendered dynamics involved in ethnographic research in criminology, placing at times greater pressures on female ethnographers in terms of being away from family and the corrosive implications associating “bad motherhood” with commitment to one’s work. This potential stigma is not always faced by male ethnographers away from home and family for weeks or months at a time. We may ask, candidly, if male ethnographers, especially fathers, have the same concerns over lost time with children, resting the responsibility for childcare or housework with a partner or other family members while away. Another area relates to the emotional work and emotional labour involved in navigating ethical considerations. The role of (effective) mentorship of graduate students is especially important here. Who is responsible for supporting junior researchers with the prevention of their own emotional risks and to develop strategies for managing the emotional labour that conducting research inevitably involves? Graduate students will be required to undertake training in ethics to receive a qualification to proceed, such as a certificate, but, depending on the project, this will not cover the often unanticipated stresses placed upon especially junior and early career researchers. An open and trusting professional relationship between graduate students and supervisors is integral to fostering the ongoing communication needed to navigate problems when they arise (Puddephatt et al., 2006). The vulnerabilities experienced by researchers, especially junior scholars, we anticipate are not equally distributed. Research examining the impacts of sexism, racism, homophobia, ableism, and other intersecting forces of structured inequalities is crucially needed to unpack further how ethical dilemmas are experienced and navigated. It may be the case that research ethics boards are simply not in a position, even if they desired to do so, to follow through with expanding the scope of ethical considerations to include researcher vulnerabilities. Yet there may be steps that can be taken, such as proactive resources, workshops, forums, and other venues where ethical dilemmas and their emotional labour are more openly discussed. Making visible these concerns is an important step towards establishing sources of support.
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Ethical issues related to conducting quantitative research is another significant area requiring further research. At the outset of this book, we mentioned that while we aimed to include quantitative criminologists, and had expressions of interest, this goal unfortunately did not pan out. Several areas of inquiry have potential here. What are the ethical issues involved in research with large data sets, especially across national and cultural borders and contexts? What are the implications for privacy and other related legal issues when multiple legal jurisdictions are involved, and potential differences in research obligations? Online surveys, for instance, may be examined and analysed in a nation without the restrictions placed on the nation where survey servers are housed. To be specific, servers in the United States may be vulnerable to surveillance under the Patriot Act provisions, which may impact how researchers are able to collect the data, as well as considerations of how confidentiality and consent are communicated with participants. There are likely many related ethical issues pertaining to quantitative research that remain to be examined. From this book’s discussion of researcher–participant relationships, transparency and ethical dilemmas, we are reminded of old debates in sociology regarding whose “side” we are on (Becker, 1967). The challenges noted thus far point to new permutations of this old debate that go well beyond repackaging this old wine in new bottles. Moxon and Waters write in this volume that “ethical considerations, far from being an afterthought or an exercise in box-ticking, are better conceived of as helping to foster an ethical gestalt in which criminological and social scientific research is accepted and embraced”. This ethical gestalt suggests a process where ethical issues are dynamically navigated and adjusted to. We hope that this volume helps generate conversations that help sustain the visibility of the ethical gestalt in criminological research.
References Becker, H. (1967). Whose side are we on? Social Problems, 14(3), 239–247. Hochschild, A. (1979). Emotion work, feeling rules, and social structure. The American Journal of Sociology, 85(3), 551–575. Holdaway, S. (1983). Inside the British police: A force at work: Basil Blackwell. Israel, M. (2004). Strictly confidential? Integrity and the disclosure of criminological research and socio-legal research. British Journal of Criminology, 44(5), 715–740. Israel, M. (2014). Research ethics and integrity for social scientists: Beyond regulatory compliance (2nd ed.). SAGE. Melrose, M. (2002). Labour pains: Some considerations on the difficulties of researching juvenile prostitution. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 5(4), 333–351. Puddephatt, A. J., Kelly, B. W., & Adorjan, M. (2006). Unveiling the cloak of competence: Cultivating authenticity in graduate sociology. The American Sociologist, 37(3), 84–98. Wincup, E. (2017). Criminological research: Understanding qualitative methods (2nd ed.). SAGE.
Aas, K. F. 3 accents 74–75 Adams, K. A. 139 Adler, P. 40, 71, 85, 118 Adler, P. A. 40, 71, 85, 118 Adorjan, M. 14, 26, 64 AEBM see Anti-Extradition Bill Movement (AEBM) Alcadipani, R. 32, 34 Anderson, T. 100–101 Anti-Extradition Bill Movement (AEBM) 13–14, 17, 19 Arnold, H. 82, 86, 89–90, 95, 167 Arvidsson, B. 126 Askew, R. 100 Asquith, N. L. 117 Atkinson, P. 34, 102
Black, P. 100 Black Lives Matter 47 Borges Jelinic, B. 57 Bradley, D. 33, 35 Bransford, C. L. 126 Bride, B. E. 134 Britto, S. 117 Brougham, P. L. 115–116 Brown, G. 32, 36 Brown, L. M. 58 Browne, B. C. 73 Bruckner, H. 33 Bryman, A. 91 Buckle, J. L. 70–71, 77 buddy research 40–50 Bunnell, S. L. 134, 137, 139 Buttle, J. W. 161
Babbie, E. 1 Bacon, M. 43 Ballamingie, P. 116 Banton, M. 41 Bargallie, D. 53, 59 Barrett, H. 12, 15 Bath, H. 140 Bauman, Z. 69 Bayley, D. H. 41 Beate, P. 100 Beck, E. 117 Becker, H. 172 Becker-Blease, K. 140 Beddoe, L. 126 Bell, D. 33, 68, 103 Ben-Yehoshua, N. S. 64 Berehulak, D. 154 Berg, B. 105 Bergman Blix, S. 117 Bernard, R. H. 85 Bittner, E. 32, 41
Calimbahin, C. 159 Campbell, A. 56, 142 Canada 31–38, 80–96 Carlen, P. 53–54, 56 Carter-Visscher, R. M. 137 Chan, J. 42 Cieslak, R. 130, 134, 140, 143, 145n2 Clarke, S. 32 Coetzee, W. S. 8, 114 Cohen, P. 101–102 Coles, J. 117 collaborations, organisational 165–167 comparative research 67–77 conflict, intergroup 14 Connor, J. 53 consent: buddy research and 45–49; infantilisation and 53; informed 141–143; -seeking, fear and 17–18; traumatized interviewees and 141–143 Cook, J. 115 Copes, H. 125, 135
Cornelio, J. S. 154 Coronavirus-19 pandemic 13–14, 21 Corrigan, F. 140, 142 COVID see Coronavirus-19 pandemic Cressey, P. G. 85 cross-cultural research 67–77 Crow, G. 45–46 Cunliffe, A. 32, 34 Curato N. 151 Dalgarno, P. 106 Dann, S. 102 data protection 22–25 Davies, P. 83–84, 135 debriefing 143 deception, for institutional access 32–38, 40–50 Delattre, E. J. 161 DFV see domestic and family violence (DFV) Dickson-Swift, V. 12–13, 24, 117 domestic and family violence (DFV) 57–63 Doucet, A. 58 Douglas, J. D. 84 Doyle, A. 41 DuBois, J. M. 18, 20 Duncan, S. 104 Duterte, Rodrigo 149–162, 150, 151 – 152, 153 Dwyer, S. C. 70–71, 77 Dyb, G. 140 Edwards, R. 104 Elliott, C. 81 Ellsberg, M. 115 emotional labour 113–126, 169–171 Ericson, R. V. 41 Erikson, K. T. 46 Eriksson, A. 67, 170 ethics 12; buddy research and 40–50; changes in landscape of, in university 54–57; components of 12; data collection and 106–107; data protection and 22–25, 107–108; further directions in 171–172; with “hard to reach” populations 99–110; identity protection and 22–25; interviewing and 20–22; knowledge dissemination and 167–171; negotiation of, on multiple institutional levels 53–65; with privileged populations 113–126; reflexivity
and 53–65; surveying and 18–20; traumatized interviewees and 130–145, 134 ethnography, immersive 80–96 Fahmy, V. 100 Faria, R. 131 Farkas, M. A. 40 Faugier, J. 104 Feenan, D. 68 Fenge, L. A. 114–115, 126 Fine, G. A. 40, 43–46 Flick, U. 75, 139 Flint, J. 102 Fohring, S. 116 Ford, N. 13 Foster, G. 55 Fox, J. 33 Francis, P. 135 Franko, K. 138, 144 Freidson, E. 108 Fussey, P. 42 Gallagher, A. 151 gatekeepers 16–17, 72 Gerber, M. 140 Gilligan, C. 58, 64 Goffman, E. 5, 42–43, 96n1 “going native” 77n1, 82, 85, 87, 90–93 Gold, R. L. 86, 96n1 Goldsmith, A. 116 Goode, S. 102 Goodman, L. A. 104 Gould, K. A. 40 Goyes, D. 136–138, 144 Griffin, M. G. 137 Griffiths, C. T. 4, 33, 36, 103 Groff, L. 68 Groundwater-Smith, S. 56 Gruner-Domic, S. 13, 15, 27 Guba, E. G. 120 Gunia, A. 155 Guttormsen, D. S. A. 70 Hagan, F. E. 84, 90, 94, 114 Haggerty, K. D. 50 Hallett, M. C. 13, 15, 27 Hamill, H. 68 Hammersley, M. 34, 101–102, 106 “hard to reach” populations 99–110 Hart, C. L. 152, 154 Hathaway, A. D. 100–101 Haugen, H. 135
Index Heise, L. 115 Herbert, S. 40–41, 48 Hochschild, A. R. 2, 169 Holdaway, S. 85, 93, 167 Holden, W. N. 149, 151–154, 158, 162, 168 Hong Kong 12–28 Huberman, A. M. 42 Huey, Laura 4 identity, transient 80–96 identity protection 22–25 Idris, I. 158 infantilisation 53 institutional access 32–38 Ireland, Northern 67–77 Israel, M. 53, 56, 105–109, 117, 125, 137, 165–166, 169 Jankowski, M. S. 85 Jarman, N. 68 Jewell, H. 135 Johnson, S. 116 Joseph, L. 100 Jupp, V. 83, 85, 90, 93 Kaplan, C. D. 102 Kawulich, B. B. 96n1 Kellogg, T. E. 13 Kemper, K. J. 144 Kim, E. 159 King, R. D. 90–91, 95 Klassen, A. L. 86 Knox, C. 68 Kolthoff, E. 161 Kremer, E. 115 Lancaster, K. 8, 114 language 74–75 Lasco, G. 153–154 Lawrence, E. K. 139 Lazar, K. 101 Lecocq, B. 115 Lee, F. L. F. 13, 27 Lee, M. R. 72 Lee, R. M. 115 Legerski, J. -P. 134, 137, 139 Leo, R. 46 Levy, J. 100–101 Liazos, Alexander 7 Librett, M. 46 Liebling, A. 81, 90–91 liminality 90–93
Lincoln, Y. S. 120 Linton, R. 43 Loader I. 131 localism 13 Lopez, E. 159 Lorentzon, M. 2 Lowe, K. F. A. 119, 121, 124, 170 Lundman, R. 33 Manning, P. K. 40, 85 Marquart, J. W. 86–87, 92 Mauthner, N. S. 58 Maykut, P. 76 McAdams, D. 106 McArthur, D. 1 McBride, R. S. 73 McCoy, A. W. 151 McDonald, H. 103 McDowell, L. 13, 16 McEvoy, K. 68, 72 Melrose, M. 115–117, 169 migration, increase in 28n1 Mika, H. 72 Miles, M. B. 42 Milgram, S. 32 Miller, E. M. 116 Miller, J. 154 Molyneux, S. 15, 24 Monaghan, R. 68 moral selfhood 14–15 Moran, R. J. 117 Morehouse, R. 76 Moriña, A. 54 Morrow, V. 12–13, 20 Moses, L. B. 42 Moxon, D. 7, 99–103, 166, 169 Mullings, B. 70, 75 Murtagh, B. 73 Myers, M. D. 42 national security legislation (NSL) 13–14 Neff, K. D. 143 Newburn, T. 135 Newman, E. 139–140, 142–143 Newman, M. 42 Ni, M. Y. 13 Nixon, C. 33, 35 Northern Ireland 67–77 Notley, C. 100–101, 104 Noy, C. 104 NSL see national security legislation (NSL)
Ogden, R. D. 118 O’Neil, R. M. 117 O’Reilly, K. 70, 77n1, 115 Oscar, R. 34 Palermo C. 76 Parenti, C. 152 Parker, N. 115 participation, of young people 13–15 Pearson, G. 83, 101 Perrone, D. 46 Philippines 149–162, 150, 151 – 152, 153 Picardal, A. L. 151 Pinsky, D. 43 Pio, E. 115 Plant, M. A. 101 polarity, ideological 14 police, befriending 40–50 Policy Innovation and Co-ordination Office (PICO) 14–15, 18, 24, 28n4 Polsky, N. 85, 118 post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) 132–133 Potter, G. 102 Pratt, J. 67 Price-Glynn, K. 116 prison officer training 80–96 privileged populations 113–126 probability sampling 139 Prus, R. 85 PTSD see post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) Public Order Ordnance 28n3 Puddephatt, A. J. 171 Punch, M. 32, 35, 85, 115, 135 radicalism 13 recruitment, fear and 17–18 reflexivity, ethical 53–65 Regilme, S. S. F. 154 Reiss, A. J. 85 researcher vulnerability 12, 115–116, 123–124, 169–171 Reynolds, P. D. 46 Ricciardelli, R. 64, 81, 84–86, 93 Ridgway, A. 114, 121, 124, 170 risk perception 20–22 role immersion 90–93 role theory 43 Rolles, S. 151 Rollins, J. 46 Rose, P. 76
Roth, J. A. 46 Roxby, P. 101 Ruggiero, Vincenzo 130 Sabar, G. 64 sampling strategies 139 Sandberg, S. 125, 135 Sanders, W. B. 85 Sandhu, A. 41–42 Sarantakos, S. 84 Sargeant, M. 104 Sas, A. 101–102 Schippert, A. C. S. P. 138 Scott, David 135 secret keeping 123–124 Seedat, S. 138, 140, 142 Seidelman, W. E. 137 Seita, J. 140 self-care 143–144 Seligman, M. 145 Shaffir, W. 85 Shapiro, A. 42 Sharp, G. 115 Shirlow, P. 73 Sin, C. H. 45–46 Singer, P. 137 Singh, S. 115 Skilbrei, M. L. 135 Skogan, W. G. 41 Skolnick, J. 32, 40, 85 Sluka, J. A. 69 Smeltzer, S. 12–13, 15, 19, 25 Smith, P. 2 Smoker, P. 68 Snow, D. A. 40, 44, 46 Social Research Association (SRA) 12, 21–22 Sowell, Thomas 31 Spradley, J. P. 44 SRA see Social Research Association (SRA) Stanley, E. 135 Stein, D. J. 138, 141 Stephens, R. 100 Stone, G. R. 118 Sullum, J. 100 Sy, M. P. 152 Sykes, G. 70 Taylor, L. 85 theoretical sampling 139 Theriault, N. 154 Thorneycroft, R. 118
Index Thrasher, F. 85 Tolich, M. 1 trauma, psychological 130–145, 134 trauma triggers 133–134 Trippany, R. L. 143 Tubex, H. 67 Turner, R. H. 43 Tusalem, R. F. 154 unresponsiveness 18–20 Uttley, C. M. 115–116 Valentine, G. 22 Vanderstayy, S. L. 116 Van Haldern, R. C. 161 Van Maanen, J. 32, 34, 85, 116 Vincett, J. 115 vulnerability, researcher 12 Walter, M. 53 Warden, T. 116
war on drugs 149–162, 150, 151 – 152, 153 Waters, J. 7, 99–104, 116, 166, 169 Wettergren, A. 117 Whyte, W. F. 85 Williams, L. 100 Willis, A. 159 Wincup, E. 93, 95, 170 Winick, C. 100 Winn, P. 149, 151, 156 Wong, L. 13 words 74–75 Wright, R. 104 Xu, J. 3 Yablonsky, L. 85 Young, L. 12, 15, 85 Zinberg. N. 102, 105, 118