The challenges of ethnics

There are different definitions of how one should act ethnically. From my perspective, being ethical in research means acting in a truthful, fair, and moral manner. More specifically, people who conduct research should be careful to not only to conduct their research progress in an ethnical way but report their data in a truthful way. 

I am interested in working with underrepresented communities, but along with this population comes vulnerability and risk. For example when working with immigrants and refugees, researchers come across the dilemma of balancing humanitarian issues and keeping a scientific rigor. As researchers get involved with participants, they might become attach which may cause experimental bias. It may cause them to bias, in the way that they might alter data unintentionally to impact policies for the good of this vulnerable population. Another issue that rises while working with immigrants and refugees is confidentiality issues and issues with consent forms. Most research studies create an inform consent to help the participant gain insight about the study, and to obtain their signature to know they agree with the requirements asked of them. Although they know this is a voluntary action, many of immigrants and refugees who have a language barrier may be unaware. They might fear signing something they cannot understand, but do it anyways because they may feel the researcher has authority over them. So the researcher might come across the dilemma of using an inform consent with signature or giving them an oral consent form. But some complications with having an oral consent form is that the participant will not have a written paper stating the risks and benefits of study and the participant may forget that they can withdraw from study at any time. In addition, confidentiality issues are a big concern when working with these populations. Some unethical concerns may be the possibility of disclosing participant’s identity and immigration status unintentionally to other members of community (e.g., two families from the same community see each other as they are coming in for an interview, thus they figure out they are undocumented, and might cause fear for both families).

Some of the ethnical dilemmas I have encountered were similar to the example stated above. I was doing an interview with an undocumented student in a room ( which I had reserved but was unlocked) , and someone walked in the room. We were in the middle of doing the interview. The person who walked in the room knew I was doing a research project on this population. Thus there was a possibility that the person knew my participant was undocumented. I was faced with a split moment decision on how to handle the situation. I decided to give the room to the person, and told him we were leaving for lunch. He was unaware that I was doing a interview session, and this helped keep the participant identity a secret. This still raises some problems but I tried to eliminate further incidents like this and I did my interviews in a more private room for the rest of the sessions.

I have learned a lot more about ethnical issues and how to handle them during this summer. Specially the workshops have helped me. For example the workshop about responsible conduct of research was very insightful. It helped me think of other ethnical concerns that may rise during academia and while conducting research. It mostly helped me understand ethnical issues during graduate school.


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