Towards Decolonising Research Ethics: From One-off Review Boards to Decentralised North–South Partnerships in an International Development Programme

Sempere, Maria Josep Cascant; Aliyu, Talatu and Bollaert, Cathy (2022). Towards Decolonising Research Ethics: From One-off Review Boards to Decentralised North–South Partnerships in an International Development Programme. Education Sciences, 12(4), article no. 236.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci12040236

Abstract

Contemporary North–South research collaborations are fraught with power relations originating in colonialism. Debates about research ethics have tended to turn around the “procedural ethics” formal model and the “everyday ethics” practical model. We build on that to suggest a second debate that scrutinises ethics and power relations not only in the researcher–researched relationship but also in the relationships within research teams and ethics review boards. The research asked: how can we shift power in research to decolonise research and build more equitable partnerships? We explored this with data obtained through collaborative autoethnography in a multi-country development research programme, Evidence and Collaboration for Inclusive Development (ECID). This included regular self-reflective meetings, visual methods, a self-evaluation survey, and blogs addressing power issues. Coordinated from London, the research had all the cards to adopt a ‘colonial’ gaze in which the North would ‘research’ the South. The case narrates the journey of the research team to decentralise power in the programme, which included sharing control over the selection of research topics, and the research design, budget, and publications. Drawing from the lessons learned from the research approach that was adopted in ECID, this paper offers an 8-step model towards decolonising research ethics.

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