Solution, but no problem

May 3, 2012

Unless it can be demonstrated that there is a serious problem to be tackled that would be solved by the issuing of a "concordat", there is no justification for or point to it ("Punishment doesn't fit social sciences crime", 26 April). Even if there were such a problem, it is questionable whether an employer/funder-enforced concordat would be either legitimate or effective.

Aside from this, the concordat should not employ doublespeak: it is not being offered to "assist" the research community; it is a proposed piece of managerial legislation to be applied by employers and funding bodies.

Let's have plain speaking at the very least, no pretence that there would be recognition of individual researchers' or research teams' freedom to choose whether or not they conformed to the concordat.

What is proposed is based upon a fallacious conception of research ethics, with its appeal to "highest standards", "obligations" and so on, and the idea that enforceable commitments could be stated that would apply across all areas of social scientific work. The concept of integrity is itself a complex and contentious one, but there is no acknowledgement of this. The initiative shows little awareness of the thought that social scientists and philosophers have given to the nature of research ethics over the past 50 or so years. In that respect it adds insult to likely injury.

Martyn Hammersley, Professor of educational and social research, The Open University

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