Research Ethics: Developing Best Practice for Researching in the Global South

GSD - Research - City view

Event details

Monday 20 May 2019
Geography Building Room B8


This event comprised a two day workshop exploring and developing best practice for research ethics when working in the global south. Core research ethics training is primarily focused upon expected conditions and challenges of conducting research in the minority Global North. As a result, much training fails to consider the added ethical challenges and complexities encountered when designing and conducting research in the global south. The need to address this challenge is particularly timely given the growing emphasis on the internationalisation and decolonisation of the discipline, increasing popular and political attention to the ethical conduct of development researchers and charities, as well as the growing role of the Global Challenges Research Fund in framing HE research.

Within the workshop we:

  • Tackled current weaknesses in (geographical) research ethics training due to an implicit bias towards work conducted in the global north

  • Delivered advanced discussion and training around best practice for geographical research in the global south

  • Developed and provided a set of teaching resources addressing the conduct of ethical research in the global south which can be incorporated into undergraduate and postgraduate research ethics training

Through a partnership between the Department of Geography (University of Sheffield), the Sheffield Institute for International Development (now the Institute for Global Sustainable Development), and the Sheffield Methods Institute (SMI), with funding from the British International Studies Association (BISA), this two-day workshop delivered a series of activities aimed at developing a set of resources to address concerns of conducting research in the global south. While these resources were heavily drawn from and orientated towards geographers, we drew upon expertise from public health, political science, anthropology and other social science disciplines to generate inter-disciplinary learning and best practice.

The workshop included reflective and conceptual plenary papers on research ethics for/in the global south, discussion sessions, as well as participatory activities, scenario-based activities and space for practice-orientated discussion.

All participants involved in the workshop were asked to submit an abstract for a 5 minute informal presentation on topics which include (but are not limited to) the list below. 

  • Practicalities and ethics (including discussions about power, positionality, etcetera)
  • Gender & difference
  • Working in repressive contexts – risks to researcher & participants
  • Emotions and mental health – researcher & participants
  • External pressures – including. working with external partners, collaborators and funders
  • Politics of representation – who speaks, etcetera
  • Digital data and methods
  • Social media – as method and as representation
  • Participant safety
  • Participatory and innovative methods
  • Equality and who gains?
  • Informed consent
  • Payment for participation and giving back
  • Working with elites
  • Health-related research and data
  • Archives and historical analysis
  • Sensitive topics
  • Vulnerable groups
  • Access
  • Covert research and levels of governmentality and surveillance
  • Working with assistants and translators
  • Researcher and donor fatigue
  • What is collaborative research?
  • Different forms of research – from field classes to lone researchers, to accompanied fieldwork