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Additional dimensions in development research ethics

This network, entitled 'As well as the subject: additional dimensions in development research ethics', is organised by Dr Laura Camfield and Dr Richard Palmer-Jones at the University of East Anglia and part-funded by UEA and the Economic and Social Research Council.

The network is supported by the School of International Development (DEV) at the University of East Anglia (UEA).


There has recently been greater emphasis on ethics in development research with widespread adoption of medical models focused largely on protection of subjects, for example, informants, vulnerable groups, or those in conflict/post disaster situations. Through this network, which has been active since 2011, we invite discussion not only of these issues, but also of other dimensions which seem to us to be relatively neglected, namely obligations to society, funders and employers, and peers (development practitioners, policymakers and researchers). These include the obligation to do non-trivial and beneficent research; to maintain and share accounts of research practice which affect the conclusions that can be drawn from the data; and to be clear with funders about the open-ended nature of research and researchers' additional responsibilities to society, research participants, and peers (see BSA guidelines 2003). Our particular focus is on ethical dissemination, publication, and advocacy, and replication and reinterpretation of quantitative and qualitative studies.

The questions that motivate this initiative derive in part from concerns with reporting of quantitative work where errors in data processing or analysis and/ or data ‘massaging' are difficult to detect in the review process. This concern is embodied in the growing, but not always popular, practice of replication of quantitative analyses requiring timely availability of data and code from authors in order to understand the details of what has been done. There is often reluctance to make these materials available for various reasons. In some cases data must be paid for; in others the issue is around making computer code available in intelligible formats; however, interest in replication should be encouraged, notwithstanding the apparent reluctance of journals to publish these sorts of papers (but see the replication section of the Journal of Social and Economic Measurement). These concerns led to consideration of appropriate procedures for ensuring proper practice with regard to reporting the quantitative and qualitative components of mixed methods studies. For example, providing journal editors, funders and data users with protocols that are detailed enough to allow audits of internal and external validity as well as ethical conduct. The growth in qualitative as well as quantitative archiving, for example, see, brings these issues to the fore since, for archived data to be usable, they need to be accompanied by a robust methodological account reflecting openly on the challenges of data production and processing in so far as they might affect the validity of future analyses.

Thus the opportunity to work with data in an informed manner is part of the ethical obligation to peers as well as funders. Additionally, the recent emphasis on evidence-based policy making by the UK Department for International Development mean it is important to ensure that quantitative and qualitative studies make full disclosure of their methods of data collection and analysis, especially if these involved working with other people's field notes or with transcripts no longer in their original language.

Activities undertaken by the network are as follows:

The panel and seminars described below gave rise to two special issues in Progress in Development Studies (vol. 13(4), As Well as the Subject: Additional Dimensions in Development Research Ethics) and Journal of Development Studies (Special Section, vol 49 (12), Three ‘Rs’ of Econometrics: Repetition, Reproduction and Replication), one edited volume (Camfield, L. (ed.) (2014). Research in International Development: a critical review. Palgrave Macmillan, UK) and a book chapter (Camfield, L, Palmer-Jones, R. (2015). 'Ethics of analysis and publication in international development' in Nakray et al, Social Science Research Ethics for a Globalizing World: Interdisciplinary and Cross-Cultural Perspectives, London, Routledge). It also stimulated a network on replication, led by Maren Duvendack and Richard Palmer-Jones Finally, the network’s focus on ethics led to the organisers being involved in co-organising an event on ethics in impact evaluation with the Centre for Development Impact ( and advising on the revision of the ESRC Framework for Research Ethics. We would welcome your ideas for future network activities - please contact us at the email addresses at the bottom of the page.

Panel at the EADI-DSA conference (Wednesday 21st September 2011):

Slot 1:Research Ethics, Replication and Reanalysis in Economic and Social Research

Research and publication ethics: dealing with and preventing discomfort, Irene Hames, Committee on Publication Ethics, UK]

Replications Sachs and Warner, Professor Graham Davis, Colorado School of Mines, USA

Impact heterogeneity of microfinance and informal sector borrowing in Bangladesh, Dr Maren Duvendack, Overseas Development Institute

Discussant: Richard Palmer-Jones, University of East Anglia,

Slot 2: Qualitative and Mixed Methods

Epistemology and ethics in data sharing and analysis: a critical overview, Professor Joanna Bornat, ESRC Timescapes, University of Leeds

Who is research for? Temporality and ethics in qualitative longitudinal research, Dr Rob Macmillan, Director, Real Times, University of Birmingham

Going back to restudy communities: Opportunities and pitfalls, Prof. Graham Crow, University of Southampton, UK

Discussant: Laura Camfield, University of UEA,


Conference blogs can be viewed at

A seminar series from 2011-12 comprising four Friday afternoon sessions addressing:

i. Research Ethics in Economic and Social Research, 21 October;

This opening session covers a range of topics relating to professional practice, including publication ethics and the use of research evidence in policy making


Prof. Margaret Rees, University of Oxford - Research and Publication Ethics: dealing with and preventing misconduct 

Charlotte Salter, University of East Anglia - Use of qualitative data in systematic reviews

Dominique Behague and Katerini Storeng, University of Brunel - Reclaiming plural forms of evidence for maternal health policy

ii. Sharing qualitative research, 25 November;

This will primarily address archiving qualitative research, namely researchers' experiences of preparing data for archiving, of using secondary qualitative data, and of having their data used in this way.


Libby Bishop, ESDS/ University of Leeds - Challenges in archiving qualitative longitudinal data: Lessons from Timescapes

Prof. Joanna Bornat, Open University - Epistemology and ethics in data sharing and analysis: a critical overview

Ginny Morrow, Young Lives, University of Oxford - The ethics of disseminating the findings of social research with children: Practical Experiences from Young Lives

iii. Sharing quantitative research, 13th January 2012;

This will provide examples and discussion of replications of seminal analyses within international development, including impact evaluations, and analyse the political-economic processes by which these come to be influential. It will also discuss problems of publication of replications.


Vegard Iversen, University of Manchester, Richard Palmer-Jones, University of East Anglia, Prof. Kunal Sen, University of Manchester - "Of overhangs and legacies: re-examining the impacts of British Colonialism in India" 

Vegard Iversen, University of Manchester, Richard Palmer-Jones, University of East Anglia - "TV and Modernisation? We don't think so"

Maren Duvendack, ODI – Replication, Reproduction and the Credibility of Micro-econometric Studies of the Impact of Microfinance and Informal Sector Borrowing in Bangladesh

Wendy Olsen, University of Manchester, Samantha Watson, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine - Researching Children - Methodological Issues Arising from Mixing Statistical Inference and Qualitative Methods

Three of these papers were also presented at a DFID-supported evening event on June 6 2012 in London.

iv. Longitudinal, Mixed Methods and Action Research, 24 February 2012.

This will address the challenges of integrating different datasets/ data collected using different methods, engagement with communities/ individuals over time, ethics of research dissemination, the relationship between research and advocacy, and managing the expectations of funders.


Malin Arvidson, Third Sector, University of Southampton - Experiencing longitudinal research: ethics, intimacy and distance in research relationships

Andi Soteri-Proctor and Rebecca Taylor, TSRC - A big ask: recruiting organisational case studies to the Real Times project and keeping them onboard

Prof. Graham Crow, University of Southampton - Going back to re-study communities: opportunities and pitfalls

Sarah Irwin, Timescapes, University of Leeds - Recruiting diverse data to sociological explanation

Prof. Ros Edwards, University of Southampton - Working With Archived Classic Family and Community Studies: Illuminating Past and Present Conventions Around Acceptable Research Practice


Dr Laura Camfield, University of East Anglia,

Dr Richard Palmer-Jones, University of East Anglia,

Laura Camfield's time on this project was part-funded by the ESRC Comparative Cross-national Research Initiative (RES-239-25-0006, Developing and refining methods for comparative cross-national research on poverty and vulnerability...)