Covert support

September 1, 2006

The arguments against covert research have been raging for many years and do have some validity ("Ethics guards are 'stifling' creativity", August 25). But it is precisely because of the inadequacy of quantitative methods in revealing the situated meanings in many areas of social activities that there is the need for covert tactics.

My research, undertaken in the mid-1970s, involved covert research with members of groups including Alcoholics Anonymous, the Socialist Party of Great Britain, the Catholic Apostolic Church and two ex-mental patients groups. As far as I know, no harm befell any of these groups or individuals and no corruption of relationships between researchers and their research and in subsequent research occurred.

Informing these groups would have compromised the scientific validity of the outcome of the research. There were no alternatives.

Kenneth Jones
North Berwick

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