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Research Methods in Politics
2
Power in Research, Ethics, Data
Protection and Bias
Research Methods in Politics: Chapter 2
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Teaching and Learning
Objectives
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to understand unequal power relations
between the researcher and those
researched, and the scope for harm
to recognise types of potential harm
to understand the Nuremberg Code
to understand ‘research effects’
to understand bias and reflexivity
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Unequal Power
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researchers exploit their resources
‘rape model’ of research
agent provocateur
physical harm
financial harm
social harm
psychological harm
ethical dilemmas
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Nuremberg Code (1947)
Nazi war crimes
 Nuremberg trials
 Code established four, universal ethical principles
for research:
– voluntary, informed consent
– benefit to society
– protection from unnecessary harm
– right of subject to end experiments
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Data Protection
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context: IT data storage; state and private sector data
banks; personal liberty; IT transfer
S 108, Treaty of Rome, 1957; EU Directive 95/46; Data
Protection Act, 1998
eight ‘data protection principles’: all data must be:
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collected lawfully
obtained for a lawful purpose
adequate, relevant, not excessive
accurate, up-to-date
not kept longer than necessary
processed in accordance with subject’s rights
kept safe from unauthorised access
not transferred outside EEA unless safeguards equal
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Academic Research
Act gives exemptions for research
 implications for academic research:
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data must be held securely
personal data should be held only where essential
identity of research subjects should be protected
personal data should not be transferred outside EEA
without agreement of subject
– potentially reusable data should be archived centrally
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‘Research effects’
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Hawthorne (Elton Mayo)
Placebo
John Henry
Halo
Peacock
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Researcher’s bias
researcher is highly biased
 deep-seated values
 prejudices – for and against
 ‘Know thyself’ is the maxim uniquely imperative
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to on the investigator of social institutions
(Beatrice Webb)
 minimising bias requires reflexivity: intellectual
self-awareness
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Questions for discussion or assignments
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Identify the extent of your own prejudices using the proforma on
the web-site. Try to identify their source. Are they derived from
others (e.g. parents or friends), intellectual inquiry or experience?
How have they changed over the years?
You have been asked to undertake a survey of electors to find out
whether non-voters in general elections differ in their general
characteristics from voters and whether they are serial abstainers.
What ethical difficulties do you anticipate? How would you tackle
them? What are your own starting prejudices?
In the course of your fieldwork, you discover a continuing case of
child abuse. You have given an undertaking of confidentiality.
What should you do?
Obtain a copy of your department’s code of research ethics. What
criticisms would you make? How should it be improved? OR, if a
code is still pending, write a draft.
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