Ethics, Anonymity, and Authorship in Community Centred Research or Anonymity and the Island Cache

An Excerpt


Since its introduction in 1998 the Tri-Council Policy Statement on “Ethical Conduct for Research involving Humans” (hereafter referred to as the “Tri-Council policy” or just the “policy”) has had more and more impact on social science research in Canada. All across the country “Research Ethics Boards” have been set up, and the eight central principles of the Tri-Council Guidelines now set the terms of reference for almost all university associated research with people.

On the surface, there is little to quarrel with in the policy itself. There have been increasingly audible mutterings in the hallways of the academy about the way the guidelines have been interpreted and enforced by various Research Ethics Boards, but not particularly about the guidelines themselves.

The eight central principles are:

• Respect for Human Dignity
• Respect for Free and Informed Consent
• Respect for Vulnerable Persons
• Respect for Privacy and Confidentiality
• Respect for Justice and Inclusiveness
• Balancing Harms and Benefits
• Minimizing Harm
• Maximizing Benefit

Respect, clearly a good thing, figures prominently. But, by way of exampleof why the uniform application of these principles is problematic, I would like to talk about a place called the “Island Cache,” an urban Aboriginal ghetto just on the outskirts of the City of Prince George in Northern BC. This isin and of itself an engaging story, but I want to tell you about the “Cache.” I want to make a few comments about contemporary community centred research and the way the Tri-Council policy is having some impacts that are, contrary to its central principles, not particularly respectful. I use the term “community centred,” as I am convinced by Jim McDonald’s (2003) argument that the term “community based” says nothing about the role of the community in the research process. Community centred research is just that, a research process that is both located at the community, and one that centralizes community concerns and participation. The central question this paper addresses is: Can community centred research be respectfully undertaken while embracing the notion of anonymity of research participants?

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