Ethics and Security in “Field Research“ (GGG) in presence

Target group:
PhD students of GGG, other PhD students if free places are available

Introduction to the online course: October 24, 2023 from 4.00 to 6.00 pm
Regular course meetings: Weekly from November 14 to December 19 from 4.00 to 6.00 pm
on 14.11.23 and 12.12.23: VG 4.105
on all other dates: Big seminar room in the State and University Library, 1st floor

Available seats: 12
Course language: English
Target group: Beginners
Trainers: Dr. Lennart Kaplan, Ann-Charline Weber, Dr. Lisa Bogler

Seminar objectives:
Course content
Economics and other social sciences have experienced a rapid increase in primary data collection activities, not only since the Nobel prize in economics for randomized controlled trials in 2019. Already during their studies, many PhD students engage in primary data collection in partner countries of the Global South in the framework of internships or in field studies. Recent discussions have shown that primary data collection in partner countries often comes with ethical dilemmas, but also with security challenges.

As academic coursework rarely covers the examination of aspects of ethics and security, this course plans to provide knowledge in the following fields:
a) Research ethics and ethical research design
This module is designed to provide an overview about different aspects of research ethics. PhD students will learn and critically reflect on the goals of research and its design. While the module can obviously not cover the realm of research ethics all-inclusively, it will provide PhD students with further references and indicate how they connect to the modules of this course.
b) Positionality
The aim of the module is to raise PhD students' awareness of their role in the research context and as visitors in another country. In a similar manner, participants will also reflect on how the identity of other team members may shape their position and access to the field. Questions on how to deal with local values and staff's privileges are also addressed.
c) Collaboration with local scientific partners
The participants are sensitized to the complementarity between local and international knowledge. In particular, this module discusses opportunities to work together with local partners already when designing the study and data collection as well as in the later evaluation and publication process.
d) Working conditions of translators, enumerators and colleagues in the Global South
While it is mandatory to provide clear statements on how to deal with respondents’ wellbeing, especially in ethics reports, this does not apply to dealing with research personnel in the Global South (translators, enumerators, researchers). Potential pitfalls include working conditions (payment, insurance), security, emotional well-being, gender inequalities, power imbalances and conflicts in the team. While many of those challenges relate to proper project management, they are often not considered in planning, and thus, in combination with intercultural differences and budget constraints, lead to ethical and security problems.
e) Security
This module covers various topics explicitly on security. The central element is careful preparation with the help of checklists and references to important contact persons and resources. In addition, mobility, physical and mental health (e.g., resilience), as well as behavior in extreme situations are addressed. Participants will learn which factors may contribute to risks both for the researchers themselves and for the extended research team (data collectors, translators, drivers).
f) Approaching participants in an ethical manner
The participants of a study play a key role in relevant development research. However, ambitious research designs result in a high effort for the respondents, which is often not compensated due to limited research budgets. In addition, research often has only indirect and long-term benefits for local communities. An ethical approach to local expectations will be discussed in this module. The aim of the module is to raise PhD students' awareness of their role in the research context and as visitors in another country.

Course goals
The course is tailored to raise participants’ awareness of potential security and ethical challenges and how they are intertwined. Although those challenges are very context-specific, the course provides participants with toolkits for better planning and reflection as well as knowledge about the relevant support structure.
The course can also help PhD candidates to prepare their own research project or “field research” stay.

Interest in “field research” and basic knowledge about research practices in the respective field of studies.

Specific information
Description of the teaching and learning methods
The course consists of six online modules, which consist of lectures and short videos, supplemented by self-study based on provided materials and literature. Short quizzes and vignettes provide an opportunity to reflect on the covered content. While we expect participants to have worked through the assigned material, meetings (in person) will be held to critically reflect and discuss the topics covered. The meetings will also enable participants to engage in group discussions and define their ethical standpoints.
There will be reflection meetings of two hours for each module. In addition, there will be an introductory meeting to familiarize participants with the course platform. The exact dates are shown above under “Schedule”.
Course materials
• We will read a mixture of academic papers and opinion pieces to account for ongoing status of the debate.
• Further course material includes recorded lectures, interviews, and other video material.
• Supplementary course materials will be announced and published on Stud.IP.
• Exercise questions will be announced during the tutorial and/or published on Stud.IP.
For curious PhD students, take a look at this blog:

Credits: 3
• Regular, active participation
• After course: written reflection on lessons learnt for your own (hypothetical) research project of 3 pages (sent to no later than January 31st, 2024)

To sign up for the course, please send an email to Dr. Nelly Schubert ( until October 23rd, 2023, 23:00pm.

Contact for more information: Dr. Nelly Schubert, Phone: +551 39-28217

This course is organized by PhD students and the Göttingen Graduate School of Social Sciences (GGG)

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