Advertisement

Ethics in Transdisciplinary Research: Reflections on the Implications of ‘Science with Society’

  • Jessica Cockburn
  • Georgina Cundill
Chapter

Abstract

Transdisciplinarity is a reflexive, participatory research approach that addresses societal problems by transcending the boundaries between science and society through knowledge co-production. Research ethics clearance procedures are often out of step with such forms of engaged research. Through a case study of a transdisciplinary PhD, we share our experiences of the ethical challenges involved in research that takes place beyond the bounds of procedural ethics. Our research aims to co-produce knowledge on environmental stewardship. In this chapter we consider what strategies transdisciplinary scholars can employ to ensure they fulfil the requirements of ethical research in the absence of suitably aligned institutional processes, and what changes need to be made to research ethics clearance procedures to ensure they are able to account for transdisciplinary research.

Notes

Acknowledgements

We would like to extend sincere thanks to our colleagues in the Rhodes University Transdisciplinary Research Group and in the Social-Ecological Systems Scholars network for reflective discussions, and for sharing their experiences on transdisciplinary research and ethics. We would also like to acknowledge the following funding sources: JC: NRF-DST Innovation Doctoral Scholarship and Rhodes University Henderson Scholarship; GC: National Research Foundation of South Africa, grant numbers: 93446 and 90694.

References

  1. Bhaskar, R. (2016). Enlightened common sense: The philosophy of critical realism. Oxon: Routledge.Google Scholar
  2. Clark, T. (2008). ‘We’re over-researched here!’: Exploring accounts of research fatigue within qualitative research engagements. Sociology, 42(5), 953–970. https://doi.org/10.1177/0038038508094573 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Cockburn, J., Rouget, M., Slotow, R., Roberts, D., Boon, R., Douwes, E., … Willows-Munro, S. (2016). How to build science-action partnerships for local land-use planning and management: Lessons from Durban, South Africa. Ecology and Society, 21(1), 28. https://doi.org/10.5751/es-08109-210128 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Cundill, G., Roux, D. J., & Parker, J. N. (2015). Nurturing communities of practice for transdisciplinary research. Ecology and Society, 20(2), 22. https://doi.org/10.5751/ES-07580-200222 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Ellis, C. (2007). Telling secrets, revealing lives. Qualitative Inquiry, 13(1), 3–29. https://doi.org/10.1177/1077800406294947 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Farrimond, H. (2013). Doing ethical research. Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Guillemin, M., & Gillam, L. (2004). Ethics, reflexivity, and “ethically important moments” in research. Qualitative Inquiry, 10(2), 261–280. https://doi.org/10.1177/1077800403262360 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Guillemin, M., & Heggen, K. (2009). Rapport and respect: Negotiating ethical relations between researcher and participant. Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy, 12(3), 291–299. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11019-008-9165-8 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Hirsch Hadorn, G., Bradley, D., Pohl, C., Rist, S., & Wiesmann, U. (2006). Implications of transdisciplinarity for sustainability research. Ecological Economics, 60(1), 119–128. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolecon.2005.12.002 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. International Institute for Environment and Development. (2014). Research ethics: Putting our principles into practice. London: International Institute for Environment and Development.Google Scholar
  11. Israel, M. (2015). Research ethics and integrity for social scientists: Beyond regulatory compliance. London: SAGE Publications Ltd.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Jahn, T., Bergmann, M., & Keil, F. (2012). Transdisciplinarity: Between mainstreaming and marginalization. Ecological Economics, 79(0), 1–10. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolecon.2012.04.017 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Kara, H. (2015). Creative research methods in the social sciences: A practical guide. Bristol: Policy Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Klein, J. T. (2014). Discourses of transdisciplinarity: Looking Back to the Future. Futures, 63, 68–74. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.futures.2014.08.008 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Lang, D. J., Wiek, A., Bergmann, M., Stauffacher, M., Martens, P., Moll, P., … Thomas, C. J. (2012). Transdisciplinary research in sustainability science: Practice, principles, and challenges. Sustainability Science, 7(1), 25–43. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11625-011-0149-x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Locke, T., Alcorn, N., & O’Neill, J. (2013). Ethical issues in collaborative action research. Educational Action Research, 21(1), 107–123. https://doi.org/10.1080/09650792.2013.763448 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Miller, T. (2013). Messy ethics: Negotiating the terrain between ethics approval and ethical practice. In J. MacClancy & A. Fuentes (Eds.), Ethics in the field: Contemporary challenges (pp. 140–155). New York: Berghahn Books.Google Scholar
  18. Parsell, M., Ambler, T., & Jacenyik-Trawoger, C. (2014). Ethics in higher education research. Studies in Higher Education, 39(1), 166–179. https://doi.org/10.1080/03075079.2011.647766 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Perry, B. (2006). Science, society and the university: A paradox of values. Social Epistemology, 20(3-4), 201–219. https://doi.org/10.1080/02691720600879798 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Popa, F., Guillermin, M., & Dedeurwaerdere, T. (2015). A pragmatist approach to transdisciplinarity in sustainability research: From complex systems theory to reflexive science. Futures, 65, 45–56. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.futures.2014.02.002 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Rossman, G. B., & Rallis, S. F. (2010). Everyday ethics: Reflections on practice. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 23(4), 379–391. https://doi.org/10.1080/09518398.2010.492813 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Russell, A. W., Wickson, F., & Carew, A. L. (2008). Transdisciplinarity: Context, contradictions and capacity. Futures, 40(5), 460–472. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.futures.2007.10.005 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Seidl, R., Brand, F. S., Stauffacher, M., Krütli, P., Le, Q. B., Spörri, A., … Scholz, R. W. (2013). Science with society in the anthropocene. AMBIO, 42(1), 5–12. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13280-012-0363-5 CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  24. Smith, L. (2008). Ethical principles in practice: Evidence from participatory action research. Kairaranga, 9, 16–21.Google Scholar
  25. Swilling, M. (2014). Rethinking the science-policy interface in South Africa: Experiments in knowledge co-production. South African Journal of Science, 110(5 & 6), 1–7. https://doi.org/10.1590/sajs.2014/20130265 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. van Breda, J., Musango, J., & Brent, A. (2016). Undertaking individual transdisciplinary PhD research for sustainable development: Case studies from South Africa. International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, 17(2), 150–166. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJSHE-07-2014-0107 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Williamson, G. R., & Prosser, S. (2002). Action research: politics, ethics and participation. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 40(5), 587–593. https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1365-2648.2002.02416.x CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. Wolf, L. E. (2010). The research ethics committee is not the enemy: Oversight of Community-Based Participatory Research. Journal of Empirical Research on Human Research Ethics, 5(4), 77–86. https://doi.org/10.1525/jer.2010.5.4.77 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Rhodes UniversityGrahamstownSouth Africa
  2. 2.International Development Research CentreOttawaCanada

Personalised recommendations