From the guest editor

The what and how of research ethics

The theme of this DevISSues is research ethics, specifically about how we include ethical considerations in our research. But what are research ethics? And how do we implement them in practice?

A dictionary definition tells us that ethics relates to the science of morals or the rules of conduct (Concise Oxford Dictionary). Though a useful starting point, the ‘science of morals’ does not help us much in practice. As with ethics, we can ask ourselves whose morals, to what end? The ‘rules of conduct’ is possibly more useful, suggesting as it does actionable modes of conduct that determine how we ‘do’ research. The three themed articles in this issue seem to implicitly agree with this definition, highlighting, as they do, the action of research.

In their article, Mena and Stenico focus on the notion of doing no harm (or no risk of harm) during research, while Faling emphasizes the reciprocity between research stakeholders. In her contribution, Hutter lays more focus on developing indicators to measure the quality and ethics of research. Thus though approaching ethics in research from different standpoints, all three articles recognize and highlight that how we implement an ethical approach to our research is very much a continuous process of weighing up the diverging interests and expectations of the various stakeholders and looking closely at the specific context in which they take place. These interests and expectations are dynamic and may conflict with each other - what is ‘right’ for the researcher may not be ‘right’ for the research participant. How we deal with this, when we deal with this, indeed whether we deal with this, is where research ethics come in.

The other articles in this issue also touch on ethics, though not explicitly. In their Staff-student discussion, Siegmann, Nabila, Hatmanti and Wulaningsih examine the treatment and rights of migrant domestic workers, pointing out that despite a decade of conventions, they still face poor working conditions and abuse. Likewise, our Focus article on the recent launch of the Legal Mobilization Platform describes the many ethical and political questions which arise when ‘mobilizing for a just world’. What all our contributors show is that research ethics is an important and complex issue that demands our continued attention.

We hope you enjoy and are inspired by this issue.

Jane Pocock, Editor DevISSues

Including ethics in development research

Inge Hutter
Thank you for all the wonderful years
Rector's blog
Group talk - cartoon
What and why of reseach ethics
Theme article
Community-based nutrition interventions in India. Participatory research project.
Societally relevant research and ethics
Theme article
Action research in action workshop - table
Towards societal engagement
Theme article
Shirani Jayasinghe
Where are they now?
Legal Mobilization Platform launch event - 3 panellists
Lauch of the Legal Mobilization Platform
Focus on ISS
Karin Astrid Siegmann in staff-student discussion 2
The rights of migrant domestic workers in the Netherlands
Staff-student discussion
Valentine’s Day at the Butterfly Bar
Student life