Patchy ethics?

March 10, 2016

While I am pleased that Times Higher Education is reporting on the problem of “real-life” ethical issues in PhD fieldwork, I was concerned by the article’s conclusion: that universities should consider including candid experiences in their curricula (“Studying for a PhD: students reveal ethical dilemmas”, News, 3 March). During my anthropology PhD at University College London, this topic was extensively and engagingly covered during staff presentations and debated during student seminars. Rather more recently, last term I was a member of a panel on the Royal College of Art’s research methods course, which explored the issues of negotiating ethics in fieldwork practice, while this term I was invited to Goldsmiths, University of London, to give an open presentation on the issues of collaborative fieldwork, specifically including the real ethical issues that this entails. With these examples in mind, I would contend that Nadia deGama’s statement on including candid experiences in curricula is true only so far as it describes the educational failings of institutions that she and her co-authors studied at, rather than a general malaise across academia.

Peter Oakley
Research leader and senior research fellow
Royal College of Art

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