Ethnic minorities from different contexts around the world have been particularly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Causes include structural health disparities and the risk of rapid spread, particularly in dispersed rural communities where multiple families share one household (Kirby, 2020). This situation gets critical considering the scarcity of state health institutions and the precarious or non-existent rural hospital infrastructure (Leonard, 2020).
This affects indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities in Colombia who live in collective territories in the Pacific region, as well as other rural communities in the country. According to the 2018 census, there are six ethnic groups: Rom (> 1 per cent), Indigenous (4.4 per cent) and Afro-Colombians, negros, raizales and palenqueros (Afro-descendants: 9.34 per cent) (DANE [Departamento Administrativo Nacional de Estadística: National Administrative Department of Statistics], 2018). Even though the Colombian constitution of 1991 declared the country as pluri-ethnic and multicultural, the country is far from removing all forms of racism and discrimination. Most of these communities live in hard-to-reach rural areas, usually conflict-affected with the presence of multiple armed groups. As a result, these communities have suffered systemic discrimination and state abandonment, and are still experiencing violence from the internal armed conflict that has continued despite the signature of the Peace Agreement in 2016 (Castillo, 2016).
In this region, forcefully displaced people receive humanitarian assistance by government and non-governmental organizations. A specific case is the Humanitarian Assistance of Internally Displaced Population programme developed by the Pan American Development Foundation (PADF) with the financial support of the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration of the US Department of State.
This chapter provides a conceptual approach to social science research ethics emerging during the COVID-19 pandemic, examining parallel issues which arose during the crisis around morality and economics. This juxtaposition between these contradictory concepts poses a number of challenges for researchers and research ethics across all disciplines. At a time when social research is recognized as essential to overcoming and learning from the global crisis, one question faced by researchers is how to navigate their moral obligations while conducting impactful and economically sustainable research. While this may be a consideration of research conducted at any time, it is particularly relevant during the COVID-19 crisis. It mirrors the narrative around the entire pandemic – where do our moral obligations end and our economic ones begin? How can we continue to ensure the health and safety of a global population while ensuring the global economy does not collapse? Where do we draw the line in terms of prioritizing particular populations over others? All these questions are not only driving the morality versus economics debate with regards to responses to the pandemic but also specifically in the case of conducting research during a pandemic.
This chapter provides insight into the particular challenges faced by researchers during the pandemic using a conceptual literature review of academic literature and online material. It aims to provide a resource to encourage and develop thinking about research ethics during particularly difficult global situations.
Care and resilience of participants, researchers and others, are rarely discussed in research methods books. This points to perhaps one of the small silver linings of the COVID-19 pandemic: in some research arenas, people have begun to take more care of each other. A global crisis that affects everyone, no matter where they live or however privileged or marginalized they may be, overturns outdated paternalistic Euro-Western ideas that researchers must protect vulnerable participants. In a global pandemic, anyone may be vulnerable – researcher and participant alike – and this shifts the power balance in research relationships.
The notion of an ‘ethics of care’ (Sevenhuijsen, 1998) appears here and there in the research literature, often as a counterpoint to an ‘ethics of justice’. However, the emphasis in the literature is often on care for research participants, with care for researchers – and other stakeholders such as gatekeepers – being side-lined or ignored. Researchers’ wellbeing is another topic which is rarely discussed in the research methods literature (Boynton, 2017; Velardo and Elliott, 2018); the term ‘researcher wellbeing’ yielded fewer than 100 hits on Google Scholar in mid-August 2020. We are pleased that this volume contributes useful material on these under-represented subjects.
We began with a rousing chapter from Petra Boynton who champions researcher wellbeing. Then Stephanie Snow outlines a national health research project using personal oral testimony, which shows how widespread vulnerability affects research in practice.
We stated, in the introduction to this volume, that creativity and ethics are closely linked. Some of the chapters in the first two volumes of this three-book series have already demonstrated this. In Volume 1, Judith Henze, Nicole Paganini and Silke Stöber had an ethical foundation for wanting to empower small-scale urban and rural farmers in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Indonesia and Mozambique to find ways to repair and/or maintain local food systems during the pandemic. Another ethical consideration was to amplify the voices of these farmers, many of whom are women, and whose voices are often unheard. Henze and her colleagues and participants made creative use of digital methods within a co-research framework to collect real-time data in a non-intrusive way. In Volume 2, Nicola Gratton, Ryan Fox and Teri Elder took an ethical approach to their ongoing support for participatory action research among UK community researchers who have experienced multiple disadvantages. In lockdown, the project support team gradually deprioritized their research aims and prioritized people’s wellbeing, replacing their supportive weekly face-to-face meetings with a WhatsApp group and a raft of creative methods of data collection including photographs, diaries, poems and podcasts. This ethical and creative approach had positive impacts on individuals, relationships and the research team as a whole.
These are just two examples; we could have chosen a number of others. And we are delighted that the chapters in this volume demonstrate the relationship between creativity and ethics even more clearly. The first section, on creative approaches, encompasses design methods, crafting and making, writing in poetry and prose, story completion, and photovoice.
Researchers, like everyone else on planet Earth, had no choice but to respond to the pandemic. Yet, again like everyone else, researchers had a lot of choice about how to respond. All three of the volumes in this series exemplify researchers at their best: reassessing their methods and approaches, with care for others and themselves, creatively and ethically. The separation of the volumes into different topics is to some extent an artificial device to support discussion and thought around these complex issues. Although the chapters you just read have been placed in this volume because they say more about response and reassessment than about ethics, creativity, resilience or care, the latter elements also run through these accounts.
We received more submissions about going digital – that is, moving in-person and in-place research online – than about any other sub-topic in this series. A sizeable number of these submissions were about switching from face-to-face interviewing to doing interviews online. This has already been covered in some detail in the methods literature: Hanna (2012) and Salmons (2015) are seminal contributors; there are many others. We didn’t want to repeat that here, and we were fortunate also to have submissions exploring other aspects of going digital. Helena Vicente and her colleagues in the European Union needed to move planned face-to-face research encounters online, but at a rather different scale from interviews: they worked with large groups of students and experts forming science camps in six European countries, and devised a novel method of taking this work online.
Being an applied researcher in the children’s charity sector can mean designing research and evaluation approaches at the last minute. However, given the novel pandemic conditions that we are facing, we have had to consider how we embed a participatory approach to researching and evaluating the adversities that come with living in poverty amidst the era of COVID-19 (Correia et al, 2019). With ‘schools [being] closed for a long period of time [this] could have [a] detrimental [impact on] social and health consequences for children living in poverty and [is] likely to exacerbate existing inequalities’ (Van Lancker and Parolin, 2020). services. The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in our usual face-to-face work with children, families, and communities being halted due to the lockdown.
Save the Children UK undertook a monumental pivot in our programmatic, policy and research approach. We redirected a significant amount of our support and funding across the United Kingdom to rapidly develop an emergency response. The aim was to support and meet the needs of children and families who were currently in or transitioning into poverty due to the socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. This has involved an enormous shift in designing, developing and delivering an efficient and robust research and evaluation plan amid the strains of limited capacity and resources. This chapter discusses how the pandemic forced the authors to quickly respond, reassess and reconsider an entire evaluation, evidence and learning approach to monitor and measure the impact of our response while practising our duty of care to children and families in poverty that have been affected by lockdown in the United Kingdom.
My research project “Integrating indigenous principles of human research ethics: The case of two Pacific island nations” was in progress when the COVID-19 pandemic was declared in early 2020. It focuses on culturally appropriate and ethical human research in the Republic of the Fiji Islands (Fiji) and the Kingdom of Tonga (Tonga) in the South Pacific. Talanoa, an informal talk between persons or among people to share stories, ideas and emotions (Vaioleti, 2016), which is a culturally embedded qualitative research method, was employed (Nabobo-Baba, 2008; Fua, 2014; Fa’avae et al, 2016). COVID-19 enforced a change from face-to-face talanoa to online talanoa, presenting research and cultural challenges that had to be resolved in order to continue the study.
I, the principal investigator, am a Tongan woman and a long-term resident and worker in Fiji. We drew on a critical ethnographic theoretical perspective (Madison, 2011) to guide the enquiry, while a case study (Yin, 2009) qualitative research design was employed to explore priorities for the development of Human Research Ethics (HRE) in Fiji and Tonga. Two case studies were being conducted in this research project considering the incorporation of iTaukei (indigenous Fijian) cultural beliefs and traditions into the governance mechanism of HRE in Fiji. The second case study covers similar content, but in Tonga.
The ethno-geographic divisions of the Pacific Islands are Melanesia, Polynesia and Micronesia.
When COVID-19 emerged globally, researchers had to renegotiate research methods, their relationship with time and the unprecedented blurring of work and home. This raised questions of how to conduct methodologically and ethically sound creative research whilst being sensitive to lived experiences. Addressing this led to a focus on crafting and the potential benefits of diaries for capturing thoughts and feelings. There is a wealth of literature affirming the creative use of diaries (Välimäki et al, 2007; Kara, 2015; Mannay, 2016; Meth, 2017; Herron et al, 2019). However, diaries are time and energy consuming. This chapter offers a new insight into the ‘in-practice’ use of diaries through the ‘Crafting during Coronavirus’ research project.
When fears around COVID-19 started to take hold, Naomi saw that her Instagram feed was flooded with ‘lockdown making’ and ‘coronavirus creativity’. We did not want people’s narratives of making during this crisis to be lost and we wanted to bear witness to their thoughts and experiences as well as their makes. People’s experiences and thoughts are diverse, complex and subjective so creative methods, allowing participants to tell their story in their own words and in their own time, are both ethical and credible (Brinkman, 2012).
Following ethical approval from the University of Bristol, the ‘Crafting during Coronavirus’ (CDC) research project was shared on social media platforms from 4 April 2020 with a weblink to Naomi’s website with project information (Clarke, 2020). Having an established online presence enabled participants to legitimize Naomi’s identity and experience.