A case study from Guyana of adapting engaged research design to promote ‘fairness in knowing’

Holliman, Richard; Marino, Alessandra; Grand, Ann; Berardi, Andrea; Mistry, Jay; Jafferally, Deirdre; Thomas, Raquel; Roberts, Grace; Marcus, Carol-Ann; Roopsind, Indranee and Roberts, Anthony (2022). A case study from Guyana of adapting engaged research design to promote ‘fairness in knowing’. Research for All, 6(1) pp. 1–17.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.14324/RFA.06.1.12


In this paper, we have combined ideas drawn from philosophy (epistemic injustice), critical theory (epistemicide) and practical approaches (engaged research design) with Indigenous knowledge to promote ‘fairness in knowing’ in a project called DETECT (Integrated Space Technology Vector Control for Enhancing community health and resilience against escalating climatic disruptions); an early-warning system to support communities in identifying mosquito breeding sites using satellite, drone and ground sensing technologies. DETECT used engaged research design to inform pre-award planning. We document how the project team, comprising Indigenous and other researchers, re-imagined the plans in the light of the COVID pandemic to allow project participants to meet safely and equitably, and reflect on some of the key challenges in engaging across borders and cultures in the context of rapidly changing conditions characterised by vulnerability, risk, complexity and uncertainty.

Plain Language Summary

1. Those planning engaged research with historically oppressed communities should aim to reduce epistemic injustice and promote fairness in knowing. Decision making should be based primarily on
ethical principles, only shifting from this position in extremis to adapt for pragmatic reasons.

2. Publics, external partners and communities who have experienced forms of oppression, often over many years, have developed ways of understanding, representing and responding to change these conditions to promote empowerment. It is the responsibility of researchers both to learn about community histories and epistemologies, and to attempt to contribute positively to the futures of those with whom they engage.

3. Engaged research involving historically oppressed communities requires long-term planning, support and adequate funding for community participation. Funding awards should be honoured in full; commitments should be underwritten by universities; funding for ‘follow-on’ activities and partnership working should be available.

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