Alison Fox

Alison Fox

Alison is an educational researcher who studies professional and digital learning. As an educator, she facilitates student voice, student mentoring and is recognised as an expert in research ethics

Location England

Achievements

Activity

  • I think Rafael would agree with your thoughts Lauren about what he could and couldn't anticipate. Ethnography is an immersive experience but, as a result, brings in the moment decision-making to the fore - ethics in practice - and he has explained how holding on to the key principle of respect was central to his behaviours.

  • Unfortunately there have been revelations of both vices you identify Lauren. Checks and balances in the system are needed, as well as virtuous researcher commitments. Working collaboratively and in communities also provides that peer support and more informal 'sense-checking' through transparency

  • I agree about the risk to individuals needing to be of paramount importance - but an anonymised but robust data set would be of real value to policy makers and leaders in society to inform the decisions they make. This would enable the voices/experiences/opinions of these workers to be heard, rather than assumptions made about them.

  • Agree that we are including vulnerabilities caused by circumstances individuals find themselves in, beyond their immediate control, which require researchers to take on responsibilities not to contribute to such inequalities/risks to the individuals and, ideally, quite the opposite - help empower, have a voice. There is a huge debate about whether perpetrators...

  • Indeed! Well put! No excuses for a 'vanity' project. Having said that this doesn't discount theoretical or exploratory studies. Outcomes should not be predicted and future possible uses cannot always be anticipated. Aiming to address/examine/'solve' an agreed problem is usually a great starting point.

  • This is a very positive way of thinking about the opportunities you have now, which can see you identifying audiences for your study, thinking about their agendas, getting to know the stakeholders associated with the setting to ensure your study will be sensitive to the cultures there as well as being of value.

  • It would be really good to hear your views on the benefits and challenges of gaining assent from those who have been considered ineligible or incapable of giving consent?

  • Jim and I are looking forward to seeing you on the forums for the course to discuss any issues that the materials and activities raise for you and your interests/studies/experiences. It would also really benefit others to hear what you think.

  • Really appreciate your comments about the generation of data. The example offered here was not one based on research. There are agendas at play for sure. The inclusion of this in the course was to hold this up against a researcher's obligations to maximise the benefits of their study whilst minimising the harm it might cause. This involves balancing how to...

  • It is tricky to decide whether somewhere is public or private digitally. This was a closed forum in that you had to apply to get in to it and the way Natasha chose to do this was to imitate a teen fan. However digital spaces are places where we are invited to have fluid identities and she did not say or do anything she was not but just didn't reveal her...

  • Hi Jeremy, thanks for your reflections. Jim and I talked about the courage to study topics which are thought important and worth studying in our webinar tonight. However, this does need to be balanced against researcher safety and wellbeing as you say. He did seem to know the contexts he was planning to study but the extent of his outsider status and not...

  • Just adding a link to information about the Gang Leader for a Day https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gang_Leader_for_a_Day - thanks for bringing this to our attention.

  • Really interesting reflections here about how valid responses to a questionnaire like this and yet when a researcher receives them, all tidy-looking and complete, they become data and are taken on into a data set....!

  • Hi Jeremy, it is really good to think about the consent publishers will expect for the studies you want to publish. This is so hard to gain retrospectively and means that the researchers have carried out covert research inadvertently rather than by design. This does happen, often in scholarship studies which start as evaluations and then grow to have bigger...

  • Hi everyone and welcome to People Studying People: Research Ethics in Society. We hope you will find this interesting and useful. We have created some reflective templates for you to capture what you want to take away from each of the weeks, so hope you find these useful. We also hope to see you at our live webinar on Thursday (not Wednesday as you might have...

  • It would be great if you could complete our postcourse survey to tell us what you liked, suggest what we might change and any impact of the course on your thinking. We just dramatically restructured the course and changed it to run from 6 to 3 weeks so any feedback on how it looks now would be really appreciated.

  • Thanks Keith for taking the time to add your comment. It would be great if you could complete our postcourse survey to tell us what you liked, suggest what we might change and any impact of the course on your thinking. We just dramatically restructured the course and changed it to run from 6 to 3 weeks so any feedback on how it looks now would be really...

  • Policies like GDPR are intended to make clear our rights as citizens and there should be mechanisms for us to ensure others are upholding these rights. The Information Commissioners Office in the UK, who have a website, lay out these processes for example what should happen if there is a 'data breach' https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/report-a-breach/...

  • True Pedro but to be compliant with data protection policies we should know what data is held about us, by whom, for what purpose, for how long and for it to be accurate. These are the principles of EU and now UK policies/standards at least. The governments in these countries are not exempt from their own policies. This might be relevant to research if the...

  • As you say, we are now part of a society where we are expected to give personal information as part of our expected transactions with various organisations, trusting that these will look after our interests.

  • Good question Pedro. Yes, the Data Protection Act (2018) was the UK version of GDPR and has since had an amendment added to it to accommodate the transition to leaving the EU. There is some discussion about this available at:...

  • Thank you for sharing Pedro

  • For some reason this link didn't work for me, I am afraid.

  • Thanks Pedro and N'nancocquot for your thoughts. I wondered whether you could imagine a situation where everyone got so excited about the research that they all wanted their voice to be heard and to waive their right to anonymity? This would need to be a truly collective decision and the consequences thought-through as you say. All those affected would need to...

  • Thanks Pedro and Eberechi. Absolutely agree that on legal matters advice before starting is really important - to ensure you are aware of your responsibilities. Hope you enjoy thinking through the next two scenarios to think about the decisions you might need to make as a study proceeds.

  • That is a really good point about the impact on the children as peers researching with peers. It is easy to generate power imbalances when knowledge is power. These roles wouldn't be for every child though and offer a meaningful insight into their world, their agendas, their interests and opportunities for them to investigate their worlds, generating data...

  • Good points Anton. The wider context for a chosen research setting might very well affect whether research is welcome or not. One of the reasons why it might not be welcome is, as you say, because they cannot appreciate the benefits of it. Another might be the result of previous research experiences. We all have a responsibility to leave a research site with a...

  • As you say this is back to the issue of children being vulnerable and adults taking the role of protecting their rights. Whilst this can be very paternalistic (in this case literally), there can be dangers with older children or those with reduced mental capacity to take an overly paternalistic and protectionist view which does not properly ask the potential...

  • We are offering lots of examples of research where the participants have been given a voice by the decisions of the researchers and their actions. This is, as you say, only possible if the researcher builds trusting relationships and maintains their integrity so as not to break that trust.

  • As you say Anton, Alice was not just a 'participant observer' as would be the usual position as an ethnographer but more of a 'participant action researcher'. She was very focused on their being outcomes of her research which would bring positive consequences for those she had 'befriended' and lived with. Hence the public dissemination she carried out and...

  • Vulnerable groups are often referred to when a researcher is making their application to a human research ethics committee, as is identifying whether sensitive topics are being covered in the research. Whilst acknowledging that no research should make gatekeepers or participants vulnerable (open to the potential of harm as a result of participating in the...

  • Vulnerability means that there is the potential for harm or advantage to be taken of others. They can be vulnerable due to their age (stage of mental and emotional development and the power imbalances with adults in society), personal characteristics such as having special learning needs/reduced mental capacity (which means they might be less likely to...

  • As you say Anton, linked to your previous post, research can be empowering for participants, rather than an imposition. They can be given a platform for their views to be heard, facilitated by the researcher, rather than being the 'subjects' of research.

  • It would be good to hear more about why you think parents won't 'facilitate the work of the researchers'. Parents/carers/guardians have ultimate responsibility for the care of their children so do you think they need more education about the research by the researchers before they can enact their role as gatekeepers n'nancocquot?

  • A very good question Mahmud. Whilst we use this here to sensitise researchers to thinking about whether there are marginalised and vulnerable groups associated with their planned research, this is not the language we would expect to be used in the associated research. We do need to make sure our research does not make vulnerable, contribute to existing power...

  • Indeed, I agree. She would need to have aimed to show an open-mind and respect to them as well as the victims. Their views can also help moved towards benefits for victims and prevention of victimisation in the future.

  • Entering people's personal spaces is certainly a privilege and a researcher needs to feel they have created the conditions to be invited in and have a justification for this. In this case children were able to reveal aspects of their identity which would have not had been so easily revealed and hence heard in other interview settings. We have responsibilities...

  • Thanks for all your contributions on the course discussions Samuel, we are sure others will have appreciated your reflections. We are glad you are finding this of interest. Hopefully the reflective template (link above) will help capture some of your 'takeaways'.

  • Alison Fox replied to [Learner left FutureLearn]

    Thank you Joanne for taking the time to feedback to us. Really glad you have found this enjoyable and hopefully also useful.

  • The thought was certainly there Samuel but you prioritised health and safety and wanting to offer something of quality to your participants. I am sure they appreciated both the thought and your decision. Both were a form of respect to them.

  • To use the padlet wall, please click on the link above and then either comment on the two situations already posted there or click on the pink cross in the bottom right hand corner to add your own idea for something which might change.

  • Totally agree Samuel. There is a duty for the researcher to fully inform and sometimes even educate an ethical approval committee of the nuances and dilemmas related to the research setting they intend to approach and there is also an ongoing duty of the researcher to be attentive to how their research design is conducted that might mean being flexible and...

  • Really glad you enjoyed it Purnima. Thanks for taking the time to add a reflection.

  • That is a great optimistic and open minded approach to take into research Samuel. I hope this course helps you to this position in relation to your own research plans.

  • I agree n'nancocquot. A challenge for a researcher when wanting to show respect is to anticipate how others would like to be treated, their needs, their agendas and concerns and their expectations of a researcher. This involves a researcher in getting to know their research context, especially if they are new to it, to be able to avoid unintended disrespect by...

  • Agree, trust is hard to build and easy to lose. It is also more difficult to build in online environments and situations where the researcher does not get a chance to directly meet those involved, which is very relevant to our current situation during the COVID-19 situation and for researchers studying in areas such as Artificial Intelligence and Machine...

  • I agree Samuel, researchers certainly need to evaluate risk. Harm could potentially be as extreme as physical injury in some fragile political contexts. More likely in social science research, the potential harm could be psychological, such as losing confidence, self-esteem, trust, dignity, or emotional, if discussing sensitive issues or even biographical...

  • As you say Samuel and is also useful in thinking about the different agendas of these different stakeholders and how the study might both interest and concern them (thinking back to consequential ethical thinking) which a researcher should consider. This includes not only the gatekeepers a researcher needs to get approval for a study and permission to study in...

  • Alison Fox replied to [Learner left FutureLearn]

    Welcome Grace, Sylvester and Rana and we hope you are enjoying the first week of the course and finding the materials of relevance and interest to you. We have a reflective sheet at the end of the week for you to capture your reflections in a practical way.

  • It will be added to step 1.17. Please feel free to comment on it there.

  • I am so sorry that you were not able to join us on Wednesday 2 Dec 2020 for our live webinar Stuart. It was recorded and will be posted on step 1.17 for you to access whenever it is convenient to you. We hope you find it and the rest of this week's materials of interest.

  • Links to the materials contained in the slides of the recorded presentation were to resources found in two places. Podcasts within the Doing Ethical Research website created by Masters and Doctoral researchers at: https://www2.le.ac.uk/colleges/ssah/research/ethics/case-studies/student-perspectives and the three British Educational Research Association's...

  • Alison Fox made a comment

    Thanks to those who attended the webinar this evening. We referred to a couple of open access resources which I am now including here for everyone in case they are interested. The first is to an open access chapter about being a practitioner-researcher carrying out ethnographic research entitled Double Agent? which can be found at:...

  • Thank you for your reply in the way it shows respect to the researchers we have included. Your comment raises how important it is for us to communicate our aims and how these are part of the moral justification of our research by which others can help evaluate its worth. As you say this is not always clear in what we read and researchers should be aware that...

  • As part of the justification it would be expected that a researcher very carefully balanced anticipatable risks against potential benefits. In these situations the benefits can often be realised after the data collection has taken place by sharing the findings with the 'participant group' by design.

  • Good point about the forum owners, Veronica. That has not been raised by course participants before. Thanks to pointing us all to Kozinets' book which I agree is a good source of examples of digital research which relies on capturing data about relationships.

  • This begs a further question as to the extent to the help he was offered as a doctoral researcher at this point in assessing the risks and whether he had the expertise available to him to offer this support. Whilst a researcher becomes expert through their fieldwork, someone needs to help the researcher thinking about protecting themselves - researcher...

  • Agree Hannah :) This leaves us with the dilemma as researchers as to how to deal with 'real relationships' (as Samuel refers to). As humans with integrity we do want real relationships. Perhaps we have to be much more honest to ourselves and those we invite as participants to our study of the boundaries to these, at least during the time of the study itself? I...

  • Thank you for sharing your questions Sean. As you say no researcher decision or action - to do or say something - or to not do or not say something - is value neutral. This is why ethical appraisal of a study should be an ongoing reflexive project, ideally supported by others asking helpful critically supportive questions, as you have here.

  • We all end up making our own personal decisions during research in the moment and, as you say Samuel, Alice was confident that she had behaved with integrity to her own interpretation of ethical principles. She makes her defence in the TED talk, to which there is a link above.

  • We are all very generous with giving our views/our data, as you say. The issue is in these digital days how this data might be misused/sold/connected with other data about us and potentially come round full circle to cause harm in ways the researchers never intended. These are possibilities they and we need to think through...which links in with Hannah's...