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Beyond Ethical Approval: Fostering Ethical Research Practices Within Inter-sectoral Research Projects Involving Academic And NGO Sector Partners

Ronan McDermott, Pat Gibbons, Desire Mpanje, Sinéad McGrath, A. L. Markey, Pablo Cortés Ferrández, Dini Haryati, Nur Fuad Zakiyatul Azizah
Published 2019 · Political Science
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While research and innovation collaborations between NGOs and academic organisations can create considerable synergies with positive effects for the humanitarian sector, the inter-sectoral nature of such collaborations can generate challenges due to the varying mandates, objectives and ways of working of the organisations involved. By drawing on the experiences of a 4-year project involving a consortium of academic and NGO partners, this paper outlines three broad and inter-related ethical challenges that such projects can encounter and how they can be practically negotiated. Firstly, how are the knowledge-generation requirements of such projects addressed without engaging in the mere extraction of data from participants? Secondly, how are potential risks to participants arising from their participation balanced with the need to include their voices within the research project? Finally, how are the formal requirements laid down by institutional review committees, primarily within academic organisations, to be adhered to within field contexts in which there are well-established expectations and ways of working on the part of NGO partners and beneficiaries? While these dilemmas are merely illustrative of the potential ethical dilemmas that inter-sectoral collaboration might encounter, the paper highlights that ethical dilemmas ought to be addressed reflexively by all stakeholders in order to facilitate improved collaboration and, ultimately, better quality, more relevant and more ethically informed research.
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