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Call for “Case Study” Abstracts on the Challenges of Applying Research Ethics Principles in the Social Sciences

05/03/2019
 
Introduction
As part of its activities within its initiative on “Research Ethics for the Social Sciences,” the Arab Council for the Social Sciences (ACSS) is planning to launch “The Arab Platform for Ethical Research in the Social Sciences.” The aim of the platform is to raise awareness on the importance of ethical conduct of research through an online, interactive training program that targets junior researchers and students at the PhD and Masters level. The platform also aims to foster discussion about principles of research ethics, which emanate from the medical and laboratory sciences, and their adaptability with field research requirements and developments in the social sciences and humanities, particularly in conflict and insecure settings.
 
The ACSS is pleased to announce a call for “case study” abstracts that encourages scholars and researchers to take part in the discussion by submitting case studies that reflect a variety of ethical conundrums faced in the field or that show the difficulty of applying ethical principles in the social sciences at the different stages of a research study from planning the project, to collecting data, to publishing the paper and finally the post-publication phase.
 
Background
The current discussions around researchers’ relationship to the field of research ethics focus on three dimensions:
  1. The importance of adhering to an ethical conduct of research that protects research participants and does not cause them any harm at any stage of the research study. Many universities, research centers and funding bodies, through institutional review boards or research ethics committees, evaluate the extent to which research projects abide by ethical principles before giving researchers the green light to commence their fieldwork.
  2. The importance of protecting researchers in the field, particularly in countries witnessing wars and conflicts, which make a researcher’s fieldwork difficult and insecure.
  3. The third dimension is related to research topics and the way they are approached, the relationships of power that govern them (between principal investigators and research assistants, for example), and the ownership of data (especially when a research study is facilitated by international organizations or civil society organizations); all of which are factors that are linked to knowledge production and its impact on the ground.
Given that principles of research ethics are derived mainly from the medical and laboratory sciences, their applicability within the social sciences and humanities poses many questions. By and large, this is because they are not always consistent with requirements and developments in the field, which are based on engagement with research participants and the development of continuous relationships of trust with them. This results in cases or situations that do not necessarily correspond to the normative principles upon which researchers may have received consent for a subject’s participation in a study (for example, exploring the challenges of obtaining written informed consent). Thus, it is important to highlight these cases for a deeper look into the ethical issues engulfed within them. This would also expand the discussion by introducing an approach that both adheres to research ethics principles and adapts to the field research requirements and developments in the various disciplines of the social sciences.
 
Who Can Apply?
This call is intended for researchers in the fields of the social sciences and humanities and their various disciplines (at any stage of their academic and professional careers) and based in the Arab region. The aim is to collect case studies that are related to one of the ethical conundrums mentioned above and that elaborate on the main challenges faced to abide by ethical principles in the research process. The case study can be focused on any stage of the research process (research design, obtaining consent, data collection, publication).
 
Structure
First Phase: Submission of Abstracts and Selection of Finalists
Interested researchers are required to submit an abstract of a case study (not less/more than 500 words). The abstract should give a brief overview of the case and the challenges faced, in addition to explaining the ethical conundrum (its connection to the principles of research ethics).
 
Deadline for submission of abstracts: June 2, 2019.
 
Submission Guidelines: For any questions or to submit your abstracts, please send an email to the Program Coordinator, Ms. Jana Chammaa (chammaa@theacss.org), indicating “Call for Abstracts: Research Ethics” in the subject line.
 
This phase will culminate in the selection of a specific number of case studies, which will be developed in later phases. A selection committee will review submitted abstracts and select finalists.
 
Second Phase: Submission of Case Study Paper
The finalists will be asked to develop their abstracts and submit a case study of 1,500 words that covers the following components:
  1. The researcher’s experience in relation to one aspect of the research ethics principles;
  2. Main questions, problematics and challenges explored in the case study (i.e. ethical conundrum);
  3. How the ethical issue was approached and what the ensuing results were (how the issue was resolved, what steps were taken by the researcher, if and how the original approach was amended);
  4. Open questions for discussion (these questions are aimed at opening up the debate on the case and the ways of dealing with it);
  5. References.
Third Phase: Workshop
A workshop will be held to discuss and finalize the selected case studies that have successfully reached the final phase, before posting them on the online platform. Dates and location will be decided at a later stage. Travel and accommodation for workshop participation will be covered by the Arab Council for the Social Sciences.
 
*** Visual based on a photo by 85Fifteen on Unspash


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