PAR raises some interesting ethical challenges. Lynne Manzo and Nathan Brightbill (2007) argue that PAR can be “more riddled with dilemmas than other forms of research” and point to the following issues:
- participant anonymity cannot be guaranteed in community group work;
- giving participants a voice can reveal “survival strategies” to those that oppress them;
- shared control over the research process “creates ethical conundrums that emerge throughout the process and not easily predicted at the outset”.
“Participation will not, in and of itself, make research ‘ethical’; the approach can be deployed to support a researcher’s pre-existing agenda, or to further the interests of a particular group.” (Manzo & Brightbill, 2007: 39).
Manzo and Brightbill examine current institutional ethical guidelines and argue that they are inadequate to deal with a PAR approach. Ethics Boards assume that research can be planned at the outset and follows in a fairly predictable pattern and yet PAR approaches in seeking to share control with participants have an inbuilt need for flexibility. In addition, Ethic Boards assume that power differentials between researcher and researched will remain constant throughout the process and yet PAR seeks to transform this relationship. The emphasis of ethical guidelines is to enter and exiting the field with minimal disruption but for PAR the active engagement of participants to change their situation means that disruption is not only inevitable but desired. Manzo and Brightbill argue that there is a need to move towards a more “participatory ethics” where Ethics Boards recognize how the PAR approach meets existing criteria and raises the bar. This means that for example, in terms of representation, PAR’s commitment to participant involvement ensures that the research is less likely to misrepresent a community and in terms of accountability, the PAR model actively scrutinizes the activities of the researcher and knowledge is tested in action.
June 15th (first version lost!)
Some posts that might help….power,
Manzo, L. C., & Brightbill, N. (2007). Toward a participatory ethics. In S. Kindon, R. Pain, & Kesby, M. (2007). Participatory action research approaches and methods: connecting people, participation and place. Routledge studies in human geography, 22. London: Routledge.