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Charter of Ethics

Overall ethics principles of the BIT-ACT research team

This Charter of Ethics outlines our ethical principles in carrying out a cross-country comparative research at the intersection of corruption studies, social movement studies, and science and technology studies. We developed this Charter of Ethics collectively, as a research team that investigates how people across the world create and employ digital media to counter corruption and foster transparency. In what follows, we list and discuss five general ethical principles that we are committed to.

 

First, we question the principle of "one size fits all" when it comes to research ethics and safety. Therefore, we pledge to adjust different research strategies and tailoring ethical concerns according to the various social, economic, and political contexts of investigation. Indeed, we recognize qualitative research in the social and political sciences as deeply situational. Drawing on this assumption, we understand our research project as related to the following aspects: the researchers' positionality in the different field sites; the types of field relationships that the researchers can nurture and protect in the diverse field sites; the dynamic changes that characterize each field site, both in the short-term and in the medium-term. 

 

Second, we do not want to provoke any more harm than that which the research participants might incur independently from their role as research participants. In this regard, our primary guiding principle is to care for the safety of the researchers and the research participants, granting them the appropriate level of confidentiality according to the country at skate. Many of our research participants will be activists who fight against corruption in countries whose national authorities have undertaken repressive measures against opposition groups, journalists, bloggers, human rights activists, and anti-corruption activists, among others. For this reason, our standard operating procedures are tools that we collectively devised to sustain our efforts not to provoke any harm to research participants and to ensure the appropriate level of confidentiality. Among other measures that we listed in our standard operating procedures, we want to highlight here that when required under specific circumstances, we will opt for obtaining oral and informal consent from research participants and will grant their anonymity.

 

Third, we want to nurture respectful relationships that consider the cultural differences between researchers in the research team and between researchers and research participants. At the same time, we acknowledge the positionalities of all the people involved in the research project. We recognize that there are differences related to gender, age, working position, and other dimensions within and outside the research team. We aim at constructing a research environment that is inclusive, collaborative, and capable of ironing out such differences when they work against the construction of shared research space. However, we also recognize that such differences might enrich the research project and the research team with different perspectives on how to conduct the research project. We will value the respectful combination of the different viewpoints that might emerge from such differences.

 

Fourth, we consider social movement actors as producers of situated knowledge that they will share with the research team. We believe that research participants can use the outputs of our research as an important reference to build bridges across different experiences of grassroots anti-corruption strategies worldwide. In this way, our research might facilitate the communication between activists and civil society sectors in different countries, as well as between academia and the civil society sector. Additionally, policymakers interested in transparent governance might also benefit from the dissemination of the research results in the form of articles and public reports. At the same time, we will use data obtained in the framework of this project only for the sake of research activities, without diffusing them to other agencies or organizations outside the academia who did not participate in the research as research participants.

 

Fifth, we believe in academic collaboration and the value of receiving advice from colleagues who will not be directly involved in the fieldwork related to our research project. We are also aware that research safety and ethics concerns will evolve through time. They cannot be set in rigid, unchanged terms once and for all before the commencement of fieldwork activities. For these reasons, all our ethics-related documents are to be intended as living documents that we will update when necessary during the course of the research project. As well, we intend to consult the Ethics Board and the Advisory Board that sustain the research project regularly throughout the entire research process. We commit to asking for advice from these two boards when conflict arises about our ethical principles and existing laws and regulations, national and local authorities, or research participants' demands.