Ethical considerations

Ethical considerations need to be made at a number of points in the research process, from defining a research question to reporting the results. Following an analytical matrix developed by Peterson, this section highlights ethical issues that are particularly pertinent for this project.26 The matrix identifies individuals or groups of people to whom considerations need to be made (e.g. scientific community, society, research participants) and prompts the investigator to highlight potential conflicts of interest.

With a keen interest in my study from key participants, there were no apparent conflicts between the participants in the study and me as a scientist considering the focus of the project. During the research process, the main ethical issue regards the participants. Informed consent is a major guiding principle when working with people.27 In this case, people participated in their professional capacities and the material did not include sensitive personal information. Therefore, I considered it sufficient to orally inform participants about the purpose of the project before interviews and relied on their own initiative to deny an interview if they did not feel comfortable with the situation. No one did this explicitly but on several occasions we had discussions beforehand about the nature of the interview and how the material would be used, including possibilities to check on quotes before anything went into print. In some interviews, the recording was turned off during a specific point at the request of the interviewee. People who have been interviewed were sent a draft version of this dissertation, with an invitation to comment not only on how I have used quotes from them but also on my overall interpretation.28 Such cross-checking also has a methodological value in relation to the triangulation of data as it can both help correct factual errors and provide alternative perceptions and interpretations that create a more nuanced analysis of events.29 As long as I stand by the final analysis and can support it empirically, ethical considerations here go hand in hand with quality control of the analysis.

When making observations, informed consent was not gathered on an individual basis. Instead, it was based on a decision by ACIA's Executive Committee. The ethical guidelines consider such consent via proxy sufficient in cases where the information is

26 Bo Peterson, Forskning och etiska koder (Nora: Nya Doxa, 1994).

27 Forskningsetiska principer inom humanistisk-samhällsvetenskaplig forskning ("Research Ethical Principles within Humanities and Social Science"). Swedish Research Council 2002.

28 A few people were not reached via the e-mail address I had received. The draft text was also sent to a few people who had not have an opportunity to interview.

29 R. E. Stake, Case Study Methodology in Education Evaluation, (Minneapolis: Minnesota Research and Evaluation Center, 1981).

not of private or ethically sensitive character. During formal AMAP, CAFF and Arctic Council meetings, the chairs were informed but without any explicit request for consent. As I was part of observer delegations, it may in fact have been difficult to formally deny me being present. I believe that the procedure can be ethically justified based on the fact that the meetings did not discuss ethically sensitive personal matters and people were present in professional capacities as representatives of countries or organizations. Their possible sensitivities should therefore be weighed against societal interest of insights into policy processes. I believe societal and scientific interests weigh heavier than the integrity of individual states or organizations. However, since I know that several participants view such meetings as negotiations, where only the final outcome should be known, I have chosen not to report on specific positions during the meetings, unless verified by separate interviews or formal protocols. Moreover, no reporting was done while the ACIA process was still on-going.

Most of the written material consists of official protocols and reports and their use in this study presents no ethical issues. Some material used was circulated during the meetings and did not appear in the official records. This material could be more ethically sensitive. However, as long as it reflects on the process rather than individual actors, I judged that societal and scientific interests weigh heavier than participants' interests and that it is therefore justified to use them for this study.

Publication of this study could present an ethical problem if it reveals information sources who want to be anonymous. To protect the identities of those who offered information off-the-record, a choice was made to refer to interview number rather than indicating the name of the interviewee. Names have, however, been used for the interviews with the lead authors, where it would have been difficult to make statements anonymous and where the interview statements were made explicitly on record, unless the interviewee indicated otherwise.

Ethical dilemmas can also come up in how research is used, regardless of the original purpose of the project. In this case, one cannot discount the risk that a study of science policy interaction in the arena of climate change will be used to discredit climate science in general or the ACIA process in particular. This is not the intention of this study. Neither is it an effort to evaluate the science or the policy or to judge what is correct from either a factual or normative point of view. Rather, the study aims to better understand the science-policy interface in order to improve knowledge production and its interactions within the policy arena with the overall goal of finding effective ways for society to face the challenges of a rapidly changing environment. The analysis, including my ways of presenting the participants' different perspectives, should thus ideally be used as one of the many inputs for further discussions on how scientific assessments, knowledge production, and science-policy interactions could improve.

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