A Pint of Ethics

A Pint of Ethics ONLINE

“This wasn’t an issue that had been covered in my CUREC application. I wondered whether I was being an ethical researcher”


We have all had moments like that during our research – where unexpected situations make us question the limits of responsible and ethical research. Often, the events that make us question our ethics are relatively innocuous daily occurrences. Examples of these “ethical instances” could include:

  • Being invited to the home of a fieldwork participant for a social event
  • Receiving gifts from fieldwork participants or host institutions
  • Being asked to raise awareness about a political situation in your fieldwork country

While researchers make commitments to protecting their research participants and the data they gather in the CUREC forms, how these daily issues fit into these broad commitments is far from clear. Researchers must often trust their own judgement in navigating these “ethical instances”. This can place unnecessary stress on the researcher, as they wonder whether they have selected the right course of action.
What is needed is an uncritical space in which to discuss “ethical instances” and seek advice from our peers. This space is Pint of Ethics, a fortnightly online meet-up hosted by the Social Sciences division. 
What is A Pint of Ethics, and how can I get involved?
 A Pint of Ethics is a voluntary online meet-up run three times a term. Join to discuss “ethical instances”, raise queries and get advice. The events will be chaired by an early career researcher, but discussion is intended to crowdsource experiences and expertise to learn from. All discussions will be conducted under Chatham House rules to protect the privacy of discussants and fieldwork participants. 




Topics for this term

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For many researchers in the social sciences ethnographic/participant observation methodologies form a core aspect of their research. In the current COVID pandemic, the traditional face-to-face research is impossible. This can cause researchers to have to choose between excluding the observational component of their research, or to adapt it using digital tools. The latter could include attending online meetings, monitoring discussion boards, or joining virtual community spaces. These forms of digital observation can raise important questions about transparency, privacy and consent. 

In this session we explore the tension faced by many ethnographic researchers in the current COVID milieu. We explore issues of concern, such as feelings on methodological slippage, concerns about “eavesdropping”, unexpected data (such as participant’s personal surroundings), encourage individuals currently struggling with these issues to share their experiences and recommendations about how to be a responsible online researcher.

Lockdown has been the source of considerable tension for individuals both in and out of research. Researchers – particularly postgraduate students and early career researchers – are dealing with the considerable stress of completing research projects in specified (and often inflexible) timeframes. These timeframes can also raise issues relating to the type and quality of data they collect and how this impacts on research outputs. Concurrently, the researchers – like their research participants and colleagues – have to deal with the personal and social stress of lockdown. Many have also had to deal with recent personal loss. 

Navigating these issues can place considerable strain on current research projects and researchers. In this session we discuss the unexpected tensions arising from researching in a COVID milieu. We encourage discussion from both the perspective of the individual researcher (are there areas that required compromise that feel uncomfortable, is motivation for research challenging under these conditions) as well as the researcher-participant relationship (how do you best support participants living with COVID stress/loss).

Based on the considerable interest in the HT20 session on the use of photography in research, another session will be run in MT20. In this session we will expand on the discussions about the ethical use of photography in research, such as how to protect participants featured in the photography, how to address issues of representation and interpretation, and issues of ownership. In keeping with our theme of “research during COVID” we will also include topics such as the re-use of existing photos, how to use photos taken by participants, and the use of photos from social media and news outlets.