Ethical considerations in social research

ethical issues in medical-social research and ethical legal and social implications research program
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Ethnic diversity and inequality: ethical and scientific rigour in social research Sarah Salway, Ruth Barley, Peter Allmark, Kate Gerrish, March 2011 Gina Higginbottom and George Ellison An investigation into the desirability and feasibility of developing guidance to help decide when and how ethnicity should be included in social policy-relevant research projects. This research involved a series of review, consultation and piloting exercises to address the increasing need for research to inform policy and practice development that is sensitive to the diversity of the UK’s multiethnic population. Emphasis was given to the impor- tance of ensuring that any guidance developed and promoted should be seen as living documents to be regularly appraised in light of the evolving social world and ethical and scientific stand- ards. The report: • discusses the background and rationale of the study; • describes the research, consultation and piloting processes; • investigates the requirement for and desirability of guidance in relation to ethnicity and where responsibility should lie for ensuring ethical and scientific rigour; • identifies the form and content appropriate to relevant guid- ance documents; • assesses the feasibility of developing such documents and their likely impact on research practice; and • draws conclusions about the prospects for enhancing the quantity of UK social research that appropriately and sensi- tively addresses ethnicity. www.jrf.org.ukContents List of illustrations 4 Executive summary 5 Introduction 7 1 Methods 12 2 Need for and desirability of guidance 18 3 Form and content of guidance 26 4 Feasibility and impact 38 5 Summary and discussion 47 Notes 53 References 54 Acknowledgements 67 About the authors 67List of illustrations Figures 1 Stages of the research cycle with potential for introducing guidance 9 Tables 1 Project activities (2008–10) 10 2 Summary of responses from members of ISR and ethics committees 22 3 Summary of responses to questions on journal checklist content 39 Boxes 1 Selecting methodological and conceptual papers for review 14 2 Principles for social research for multiethnic settings 32Executive summary Background There is an increasing demand for social research that can inform policy and practice development that is sensitive to, and serves the needs of, the UK’s multiethnic population. Currently, much social research does not include minority ethnic people and communities and does not engage meaningfully with issues of ethnic diversity and inequality. Where research does address ethnicity, there is a wide range of theoreti- cal and methodological approaches, as well as concerns regarding ethical standards. Increasing the quality and quantity of social research that addresses ethnicity will require particular knowledge, skills and competencies among researchers and research commissioners, as well as a commitment to ethical and scientific rigour in such work. Project aim The overall aim of the present project was to explore the feasibility and desirability of developing guidance at different points within the research cycle that could help commissioners of research, investigators, applicants and peer reviewers consider when and how ethnicity should be included in social policy- relevant research projects. In order to achieve this aim, the project involved a series of review, consultation and piloting exercises through which we were able to (i) synthesise key ethical and scientific issues relat- ing to ethnicity in social research; (ii) explore current concerns and practices among social researchers; and (iii) identify factors that support or hinder the use and impact of guidance on research practice. Findings Our consultation work suggested that many social researchers are aware of the importance of incorporat- ing attention to ethnicity within their work and acknowledge the challenges this brings and the need for greater guidance and support. Current practices of review and scrutiny of proposed research in relation to ethnicity appear to be largely informal and heavily reliant on the interest and expertise of particular individuals. Further, while there is a large volume of published literature on conceptual, ethical and methodological issues in researching ethnicity, this material is not always readily accessible to a multi- disciplinary audience and some notable gaps exist. Learned Society guidance documents do not, by and large, deal with ethnicity in any detail. The study findings therefore confirmed both a need and a potential demand for guidance in the area of researching ethnicity. Nevertheless, some dissenting voices were heard, including those who are confident that the issues are already adequately addressed; those who are concerned that guidance would constrain creativity and hamper research; and those who question whether it is necessary to focus increased attention on ethnicity (in some cases seeing this as a specialist area or of marginal interest). Review and consultation exercises identified a wide range of potential issues for inclusion in guid- ance ranging from broad concerns, such as the importance of scrutinising the motivations that lie behind research on ethnicity, to much more specific issues, such as the need to explain and justify how ethnic categories are operationalised. These issues are synthesised in a set of Principles for Social Research in Executive summary 5Multiethnic Settings (Chapter 4). We found evidence that researchers, reviewers and research commis- sioners would welcome short guidance documents at points within the research cycle that could alert them to key issues for consideration. However, a number of important issues were raised in relation to producing such concise accessible guidance documents, including the potential tension between a desire for brevity and the wide range of issues considered important; the appropriate balance between flexibility and prescription; the extent to which generic guidance can be relevant across disciplinary boundaries and diverse research settings; and the appropriateness of privileging ethnicity, as opposed to other axes of difference and inequality. Notwithstanding these complexities, the project did result in guidance documents being developed and piloted in five social science journals and within the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) research commissioning process. These documents were received positively by the majority of research- ers who chose to consult them. Most respondents reported the documents to be comprehensible and exhaustive and felt that they had the potential to improve the quality of research papers published or proposals submitted. Several researchers felt the guidance had had a significant impact on their own practice – raising awareness, prompting reflection and, in the case of reviewers, making their job easier. However, a large number of researchers reported no significant impact, largely because they felt their current practice was already consistent with the guidance being offered. Further, overall uptake was low in the pilot across all journals, suggesting that many researchers either regard attention to ethnicity as being of no concern or consider the use of a guidance document to be an unwelcome addition to their workload. Conclusions and future directions What then is the likely future role for guidance documents on researching ethnicity within the research cycle? Our project suggests that such documents do hold promise and that researchers are receptive to their introduction. Their use, however, will need to be actively promoted by key gatekeepers. Research commissioners, ethics and independent scientific review (ISR) boards and journal editors must demon- strate their commitment to such documents and to raising standards, so that researchers are challenged and supported to improve their practice. Even with such commitment, the shift towards higher ethical and scientific standards is likely to be a long, slow process. Our project findings suggest that there is a need both to convince a wider audience of social researchers of the need to address ethnicity within their work, and also to encourage those researchers who already work in the field of ethnicity to reflect on and improve their current practice. Many of the common pitfalls highlighted in research in this area are deeply embedded in broader structures, including the poor representation of minority ethnic people among social researchers and the limited involvement of minority ethnic communities in shaping research agendas. Nevertheless, it seems likely that principles of good research practice can be gradually agreed and established, and that this would in turn encourage progress towards meeting these standards. In this context checklists may well be helpful, and, notwithstanding some inevitable initial resistance among people who feel overworked, can serve to inculcate a common understanding of what constitutes sound ethical and scientific practice. However, if the wider aim is to increase the volume of research that sensitively and appropriately addresses ethnicity, prompting guidance documents are unlikely to be sufficient. There needs to be a much broader approach and significant investment in increasing the confidence and competence of social researchers to research in this area. Finally, it is worth highlighting the importance of ensuring that any guidance documents developed and promoted should be seen as living documents to be regularly appraised in light of the evolving social world we seek to understand and the ethical and scientific stand- ards to which we aspire. 6 Executive summaryIntroduction Key points •• There is an increasing requirement for social research that can inform policy and practice development that is sensitive to, and serves the needs of, the UK’s multiethnic population. •• Currently, much social research does not include minority ethnic people and communities and does not engage meaningfully with issues of ethnic diversity and inequality. •• Where research does address ethnicity, there is a wide range of theoretical and methodological approaches, as well as concerns regarding ethical standards. •• Increasing the quality and quantity of social research that addresses ethnicity will require particular knowledge, skills and competencies among researchers and research commission- ers, as well as a commitment to ethical and scientific rigour in such work. •• The overall aim of the present project was to explore the feasibility and desirability of develop- ing guidance that could help commissioners of research, investigators, applicants and peer reviewers: – consider when and how ethnicity should be included in social policy-relevant research projects; – make suitable decisions and recommendations regarding research design to ensure that ethnicity is appropriately and sensitively addressed in such research. •• In order to achieve this aim, the project involved a series of review, consultation and piloting exercises with the following objectives: to identify: – and synthesise key ethical and scientific issues r elating to ethnicity in social research; – current concerns and practices among social researchers and areas in need of support; – factors that support or hinder the use and impact of guidance on research practice. Background and rationale for the study The need for social research to address ethnic diversity The UK has long been recognised as a multiethnic society. Latest estimates from the Office for National Statistics indicate that around 16 per cent of the population of England and Wales self-identify as belong- ing to an ethnic group other than the majority ‘white British’. The ethnic, religious and linguistic diversity of the UK population is increasing, in terms of both the proportion of the population who are from minority ethnic backgrounds and the range of ethnicities that are identified. Clearly, there is much to celebrate in the emerging ‘super-diversity’ of our population (Vertovec, 2007). However, ethnicity is also one of the major social divisions in modern Britain (Anthias, 2001) and ethnic identities have important implications for life chances and wellbeing. Across a range of social indicators, outcomes for minority ethnic groups continue to be far worse than for the majority white British population. Persistent disadvantage among long-established post-colonial migrant populations, as well as Gypsy and Traveller communities, is now coupled with new issues facing more recent arrivals. Introduction 7Although the UK government has renewed its commitment to tackling such inequalities (DCLG, 2010), ensuring equitable opportunities, experiences and outcomes for all, regardless of ethnicity, pre- sents significant challenges for policy-makers and practitioners. In particular, appropriate responses are often hampered by the lack of good-quality research that addresses ethnic diversity and inequality. There is a need for better understanding of the patterns and causes of ethnic inequalities across diverse arenas, including employment, education and health (Mason, 2003), as well as identification of potential solutions. Further, the legal duties placed upon public bodies by the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000, com- bined with the growing expectation that social policy and practice be firmly grounded in evidence, clearly require a research base that reflects the ethnic diversity of the population. The requirement for such an evidence base has been formally acknowledged by the Department of Health in its Research Governance Framework for Health and Social Care, in which it sets out general principles that should apply to all research (Department of Health, 2005): Research, and those pursuing it, should respect the diversity of human society and conditions and the multi-cultural nature of society. Whenever relevant, it should take account of age, disability, gender, sexual orientation, race, culture and religion in its design, undertaking and reporting. The body of research evidence available to policy makers should reflect the diversity of the population. Para 2.2.7 Other government departments, while not having such explicit general principles, are showing increasing commitment to strengthening the evidence base relating to minority ethnic groups, for instance by specific programmes of research (e.g. the Department for Work and Pensions’ work on ethnic minority employment disadvantage) and initiatives to ensure ‘ethnic monitoring’ (e.g. the Department for Education and Skills’ work to support schools in this endeavour). Some professional bodies (such as the Royal College of Psychiatrists) and voluntary funders of research including the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) have also expressed their commitment to embed attention to ethnic diversity within the research they commission or support. However, despite the apparent increased awareness of the need for (and right to) inclusion in research that influences knowledge, policy and practice, it is clear that much funded social research that is conducted in the UK focuses predominantly on the majority white British population and fails to 1 consider ethnicity as a variable of analysis (Oakley, 2006). Unlike the US, there is currently no explicit legal requirement in the UK to include minority ethnic participants in publicly funded research intended to inform social policy decisions affecting its ethnically diverse population. Furthermore, where research does engage with ethnicity there is a vast array of approaches to conceptualisation, measurement, analysis and reporting of results, all of which raise practical, meth- odological and ethical issues. Indeed, the ethical and scientific arguments around whether and how to incorporate ethnicity into policy-relevant social research are complex and there are significant concerns that research that is poorly conceived and executed may do more harm than good (Patel, 1999; Ellison 2005; Gunaratnam, 2007; Salway and Ellison, 2010). Thus, while there is an increasing need for research to inform policy and practice development that is sensitive to the diversity of the UK’s multiethnic population, this will require particular knowledge, skills and competencies among researchers and research commissioners, as well as a commitment to critically reflect upon and promote the ethical and scientific rigour in such work. Opportunities for enhancing the quality and quantity of social research that addresses ethnic diversity and inequality The present project was based on the premise that there are at least three critical junctures in the research cycle at which there is the potential to increase both the quantity and quality of research that pays attention to ethnic diversity and inequality (see Figure 1). For researcher-led research, these will 8 Introductionusually be research proposal development and independent scientific review (ISR); ethical review; and peer review for publication. For more applied or directly commissioned research, the equivalent stages are development of the commissioning brief or tender document; contract agreement/project plan fine- tuning; and review and finalisation of project report/other outputs. Clearly, in some cases a research project may fall somewhere between these, perhaps being directly commissioned but also requiring ethi- cal approval from a university or National Health Service (NHS) ethics committee. Nonetheless, the key point is that in most cases there are clear junctures at which research commissioners and researchers can be alerted to, and required to reflect upon, whether and how their research engages with ethnicity. Furthermore, there are clearly various people involved in this cycle (such as journal editors and ethics committee members) who could potentially play a role in, and take responsibility for, enhancing the quality and quantity of research in this area. Background work for the present project suggested that the potential for these junctures to act in this way is currently underexploited. For instance, although a large number of guidelines exist on the use of race/ethnicity for health and biomedical journals, they are varied (Outram and Ellison, 2006; Smart, et al., 2008) and largely not enforced (Ellison and Rosato, 2002). Key journals that publish social policy- relevant research, including Ethnicity and Health, Ethnic and Racial Studies, Journal of Social Policy and Journal of Marriage and Family, do not currently employ any specific guidelines for reviewers or authors on whether and how attention to ethnicity should be considered in research. A preliminary search and consultation exercise also suggested that there is little in the way of guidelines for use by either research- ers or reviewers of proposals at the levels of commissioning, ISR and ethics approval. Ethics guidance documents produced by professional bodies and associations also appear to give limited attention and no concrete guidance to researchers as to how their work should address the complex issues that arise in research in multiethnic settings. Further, while some funding agencies, including the JRF, give explicit indication to applicants that they expect research to be inclusive of and relevant to all, regardless of ethnicity, wherever appropriate, many more do not. In short, though the need for social research to respond to the multiethnic nature of UK society is increasingly recognised, it appears that there are few mechanisms currently in place to encourage or support researchers in this direction and little in the way of quality assurance checks within the research cycle. Figure 1: Stages of the research cycle with potential for introducing guidance Research proposal Commissioning brief/tender development and independent document development scientific review Contract agreement/project Ethical review plan fine-tuning Review and finalisation of Peer review for publication project report/other outputs Introduction 9Aims and objectives The overall aim of the present project was to explore the feasibility and desirability of developing guidance that could help commissioners of research, investigators, applicants and peer reviewers: • consider when and how ethnicity should be included in social policy-relevant research projects; and • make appropriate decisions and recommendations regarding research design to ensure that ethnicity is appropriately and sensitively addressed in such research. In order to achieve this aim, the project had the following objectives: • to identify and synthesise key ethical and scientific issues relating to ethnicity in social research; • to identify current concerns and practices among social researchers and areas in need of support; • to identify factors that support or hinder the use and impact of guidance on research practice. Overview of methods In order to meet these objectives a series of review and consultation exercises were undertaken over an 18-month period. The findings were then fed into the development of guidance documents that were piloted at stages within the research cycle. Table 1 summarises the various activities undertaken. We provide some further detail of each of these steps in Chapter 2, though interested readers are referred to Table 1: Project activities (2008–10) Area of activity Specific activities Review and synthesis Review of guidance documents of the Learned Societies of the Academy of Social Sciences (AcSS) Review of conceptual and methodological social science papers focused on researching ethnicity Review of empirical papers published in the journals of the Learned Societies of the AcSS Consultation Semi-structured telephone/email interviews with social researchers E-consultation with members of ISR and ethics committees Guidance development Guidance developed and piloted within JRF’s research commissioning cycle and piloting Guidance developed and piloted within social science journals Preparation of reports Facilitated workshops with social researchers and research commissioners and other outputs Journal articles Oral presentations Website (http://research.shu.ac.uk/ethics-ethnicity/) These workshops included researchers working in universities, government departments, private agencies and charitable organisations. They provided an additional opportunity for consultation as well as dissemination of project findings. 10 Introductionthe project website (http://research.shu.ac.uk/ethics-ethnicity/) for more information on our methodologi- cal approach. Ethical approval for the project was provided by the Ethics Committee of the Faculty of Health and Wellbeing, Sheffield Hallam University. Terminology So far our discussion has employed the term ‘ethnicity’ without further elaboration. However, it is impor- tant to note that frequent, everyday reference to ‘ethnicity’ and ‘ethnic groups’ belies the complex and contentious nature of these terms. Indeed, the diverse and contradictory ways in which the term ‘ethni- city’ is employed is one of the central issues facing social researchers concerned to enhance the rigour of research in this area. Given the focus of this project – exploring the range of current concerns and practice in social science research – we employ the term ‘ethnicity’ loosely, recognising the varied meanings that research- ers can attach to it, including cultural, socio-political and/or genealogical dimensions. For simplicity we choose not to use the term ‘race’ or the combined formulation ‘race/ethnicity’ in the general text of 2 the report, though we recognise the close relationship these terms have with ‘ethnicity’. Nevertheless, at times during our review, consultation and piloting exercises we did employ these terms since they are in use by social researchers and it was important not to overlook relevant information by restricting ourselves narrowly to the term ‘ethnicity’. Furthermore, our respondents also frequently employed these terms, as reflected in their responses. Structure of the report Chapter 2 provides some more detail on the methods used in the project. We then go on to describe the main findings of the project. Data generated through the diverse project activities have been integrated to present findings and draw conclusions relating to the need for and desirability of guidance (Chapter 3); the possible form and content of such guidance (Chapter 4); and the feasibility and impact of introducing such guidance within the research cycle (Chapter 5). Chapter 6 provides an overview of the project’s find- ings and discusses their implications for researchers, research commissioners and the users of research in the future. Introduction 111 Methods Key points •• The project involved a series of review and consultation exercises over an 18-month period. •• Review work included: – review of guidance documents of the Learned Societies of the Academy of Social Sciences (AcSS); – review of conceptual and methodological social science papers focused on researching ethnicity; – review of empirical papers published in the journals of the Learned Societies of the AcSS. •• Consultation work included: – semi-structured telephone/email interviews with social researchers; – e-consultation with members of ISR and ethics committees. •• Following these activities, guidance documents were developed and piloted within (i) social policy-relevant journals and (ii) the JRF research commissioning process. •• A series of development and dissemination workshops was held with social researchers work- ing in a range of settings to share findings and gain further insights. •• Findings from these diverse activities were integrated to draw conclusions about (i) the need for and desirability of guidance; (ii) the possible form and content of such guidance; and (iii) the feasibility and impact of introducing such guidance within the research cycle. •• In addition to the present report, a number of papers and presentations have been prepared that can be accessed via the project website http://research.shu.ac.uk/ethics-ethnicity/ Review and synthesis The three elements of review and synthesis work were underpinned by the following broad questions: • To what extent do social scientists have access to advice and direction on when and how they should incorporate attention to ethnicity within their research work? • What issues of ethical and scientific rigour have been identified in relation to researching ethnicity? To what extent is there consensus around such issues and how they should be addressed? Review of guidance documents of the Learned Societies of the Academy of Social Sciences The first stage of review work involved a review of the guidance documents of the 32 UK social science 1 Learned Societies of the AcSS (listed in Appendix 1). While researchers draw on many sources to guide 12 Methodstheir work, guidance documents represent public statements on the part of Learned Societies and as such provide a useful window into the current state of articulated principles and good practice in relation to conducting social research. The specific aim was to examine the extent to which ethnic diversity is explicitly or implicitly considered within the research ethics and scientific standard guidance provided by Learned Societies to their members. A supplementary aim was to identify factors that might influence Learned Societies’ and their members’ more active consideration of when and how to incorporate atten- tion to ethnic diversity within their research. Our approach involved examining each Society’s website to collect background information on the Society’s age, size and key foci, and to identify any documents or activities of relevance to research ethics, scientific standards and/or ethnic diversity. Requests for relevant information were also emailed to each Society’s Chair and/or key administrator where these were not readily available on the website. In all cases we were able to either access relevant documents (some of which were in development at the time of the study), or else confirm the absence of any such relevant documentation for the Society in question. Documents identified were subjected to interpretive documentary analysis, as described by Abbott, et al. (2004). Following initial careful reading of the material to generate preliminary themes, a draft coding template was developed. This was subsequently piloted, revised, finalised and then used to guide the systematic extraction and analysis of data from each of the documents. Detailed findings from this part of the project are reported elsewhere (Salway, et al., 2009). Review of conceptual and methodological social science papers focused on researching ethnicity The second element of our review work consisted of a review of published research literature with the aim of identifying and synthesising the key issues that social science researchers have highlighted in relation to ethical practice and scientific standards in researching ethnicity. Our aim was to gain an understand- ing of the breadth of issues that have been identified across the disparate disciplines within the social sciences, as well as to identify areas of consensus and potential conflict. This approach allowed us to identify issues for possible inclusion within the guidance documents to be developed for piloting. The review was also intended to be replicable. In order to identify a sufficient volume and range of material, two approaches were adopted. First, a systematic computerised search of Sheffield Hallam University’s library catalogue and online databases was undertaken using carefully constructed search terms (ethnic/rac/cultur/minority/religion/language and method/concept/measur/research/theor). Second, recommendations of key papers were sought from experts in the field. Box 1 describes the criteria for paper inclusion. The review was also supple- mented with a number of guidance documents and additional relevant papers that were already known to the research team, but had not been identified by either of the search approaches. In total therefore we drew on well over 100 papers and documents. An analysis framework was created through an iterative process to guide the systematic extraction and synthesis of key themes from the papers. Methods 13Box 1: Selecting methodological and conceptual papers for review Papers were eligible for the review if they dealt with any or all of the following issues: • whether and when social policy-relevant research should pay attention to ethnicity (and/or race); • whether and when social policy-relevant research should adopt data generation approaches that are inclusive of minority ethnic groups and/or enable exploration of ethnicity (and/or race); •• how the concepts of ethnicity (and/or race) should be theorised within social policy-relevant research; •• the scientific principles and standards that should be employed in research that includes atten- tion to ethnicity (and/or race); •• the ethical issues that need to be addressed in relation to social policy-relevant research that pays attention to ethnicity (and/or race). Review of empirical social science research papers published in journals of the Academy of Social Sciences The third element of our review work involved an exploration of current practices in empirical social research. We undertook a review of recent papers published in social policy-relevant journals associated with Learned Societies of the AcSS (21 journals in total – see Appendix 2) in order to explore whether and how they had incorporated attention to ethnicity and/or race. The review took March 2008 as its starting point and looked backwards to include six papers from each journal that were empirical, UK-focused or a comparative study including the UK, and also social policy-relevant. These papers were then assessed to determine the proportion of papers that included some attention to ethnicity and/or race. Next, those papers that were found to have paid attention to ethnicity and/or race, were examined in more detail to determine what this had involved. Specifically, we examined: • whether the authors gave any rationale for including attention to ethnicity and/or race and if so what this rationale was; • whether the paper gave attention to ethnicity and/or race in the way that the body of empirical data was generated (for instance in the sampling procedures employed); • whether the paper explored outcomes in relation to ethnicity and/or race (and therefore had a focus on potential inequality). Consultation Semi-structured interviews with social researchers In our first consultation exercise we interviewed social researchers in government and private research agencies as well as research commissioners based within government departments. This focus was important given the large amount of social policy-relevant research that is commissioned and delivered outside universities, and the familiarity with academic research already gained through the review 14 Methodsexercises and the research team’s own prior experience. We approached the twelve government departments (including some in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, as well as in England) that are most active in producing social policy-relevant research (both in-house and commissioned) and 15 research agencies. Six representatives of government departments and eight representatives of the private research agencies agreed to participate. A semi-structured interview tool was completed for each respondent by either telephone or email, depending on respondent preference, between September and November 2008. The interviews sought information on: • the extent to which attention to ethnicity was evident within the research being commissioned and conducted; • the organisational procedures and policies in place to ensure ethical scrutiny and scientific rigour and the extent to which ethnicity is explicitly or implicitly given attention within such guidance; • the degree of confidence and expertise expressed by researchers and research commissioners in relation to researching ethnicity; • the types of issues arising in researching ethnicity, whether guidance or support on these issues is needed and, if so, what form and content this should have. Respondents were asked to respond in terms of what they knew about their organisation and the research commissioned/conducted within it, rather than to relay answers that related merely to their own personal experience, and to refer a more experienced colleague if they were unable to answer the ques- tions in this way. Email consultation with members of independent scientific review and ethics committees Consultation with members of ISR and ethics committees was undertaken with the aims of: • identifying possible content that might be incorporated into guidance; and • assessing the receptiveness of such committees to potential guidance. Our sampling strategy focused on cities having a relatively high minority ethnic population as it was felt that research ethics and ISR committees in these areas would be more likely to have experience from which the project could learn. The following cities were selected: Birmingham, Bradford, Manchester, Leicester, London – Tooting and London – Tower Hamlets. Sheffield was also included, given our local connections and relative ease of inclusion. The intention was to gather information from all the ethics and ISR committees within a region to which a social policy-relevant research might be submitted for review. A total of 40 such committees were contacted by email, with 13 participating by completing a short online questionnaire: five from Sheffield, three from Manchester, four from London and one from Bradford. No completed questionnaires were received from committee representatives in Birmingham or Leicester, though we were directed to some relevant documentation. Twelve of the responses came from representatives of university ethics and ISR committees and just one from a local council committee. Methods 15Piloting Piloting in academic journals Based on the review and consultation work, a draft guidance checklist was prepared that was intended to be used by both authors and reviewers to support the preparation and review of academic papers. The aims of the pilot across all journals were to: • assess the feasibility and desirability of introducing a guidance checklist focused on ethnicity within social policy-relevant journals; • gain insight into whether such an intervention could help to enhance the quality of published research that pays attention to ethnicity. We recruited five journals to the pilot: Diversity in Health and Care (DHC); Ethnicity & Health (E&H); Anthropology in Action (AA); Journal of Social Policy (JSP) and Social Policy and Society (SPS). The timing of piloting in each journal varied slightly, though all took place between January 2009 and July 2010. The guidance checklists were finalised through a series of iterations with input from one or more members of the editorial teams and, although the checklists covered largely the same content, each was slightly different. The guidance checklist piloted in E&H is given in Appendix 3 as illustration. Participation in the pilot was entirely optional, authors and reviewers being invited to participate through a brief para- graph inserted into standard emails from the editors. Completed guidance checklists were not reviewed as part of the pilot; rather, authors and reviewers were asked to give feedback on the usefulness and appropriateness of the guidance using an online questionnaire. Forty-four people followed the link to the online questionnaire – 26 as reviewers and 18 as authors. However, only 25 of these people answered any of the detailed questions and 21 completed the questionnaire fully. The vast majority of these 21 respondents were authors or reviewers of E&H (18), with very low participation from the other journals: AA (1), DHC (2), JSP (0), SPS (0). We discuss the possible reasons for these differential response rates in Chapter 5. Piloting in the JRF research-commissioning process Drawing on the review work, and with input from the JRF’s programme managers, a guidance document was drafted in a format similar to that used in the JRF’s standard guidance for research applicants. The document was intended to prompt researchers to carefully consider whether their proposed research should or should not pay attention to ethnicity, and to alert researchers to the main scientific and ethi- cal issues that have been highlighted in relation to researching ethnicity sensitively and appropriately (see Appendix 4). Four calls were identified for inclusion in the pilot between July and December 2009: Forced Labour; Alcohol and Locality; Young People and Housing; and Young People who Drink Little. Researchers submitting proposals to the first two of these calls were provided with the additional ‘Researching ethnicity’ guidance document prior to submission, along with other standard documentation from the Foundation, while researchers submitting proposals to the other two calls were not provided with the additional guidance at the time of submission. The pilot’s aims were to: • assess the feasibility and desirability of introducing a guidance document focused on ethnicity within the JRF research commissioning process; • explore whether such an intervention could enhance the quality of research proposals submitted in relation to their treatment of ethnicity. 16 MethodsOnce all proposals had been received, applicants to all four calls were invited to participate. Consenting applicants were requested to provide feedback on the usefulness and appropriateness of the guidance document using an online questionnaire. Applicants who had not had sight of the document at the time of preparing their proposal were able to read and consider the document before completing the feedback questionnaire. In addition, where applicants gave permission for their proposal to be reviewed by our research team, a standard template was used to examine whether and how the researchers had incorporated attention to ethnicity within their proposal documents. Forty-nine applicants followed the link to the online questionnaire, 36 submitted answers to only a sub-set of the questions, and 26 submitted fully completed questionnaires. A total of 77 proposals were submitted in response to the four calls that were included in the pilot (56 to the active calls and 21 to the control calls). Of these, applicants gave consent and we were able to review 33 proposals from the active calls and 13 proposals from the control calls (close to 60 per cent in both cases). Integration of findings Clearly the project was complex in terms of the number of different activities undertaken and the range of people engaged. Rather than reporting on the findings from these activities separately, we present in the following chapters an integrated analysis that draws on insights across the project life. This is appropriate since most activities yielded information pertinent to more than one of our objectives listed in Chapter 1. Analysis of findings was performed independently for each component initially, and then, through a series of iterations, informed by further consultation with researchers and research commissioners working in the field, the key themes were extracted and synthesised. Methods 172 Need for and desirability of guidance Key points • Documents produced by the AcSS Learned Societies that offer guidance to researchers on ethical, scientific and professional conduct issues do not, by and large, deal with ethnicity in any detail. • While there is a large and growing volume of published literature focused on conceptual, ethical and methodological issues in researching ethnicity, this material is not always readily accessible to a multidisciplinary audience and some noticeable gaps exist. • Our review of published papers suggests that much social policy-relevant research continues to ignore ethnicity or employs approaches that are conceptually and/or methodologically weak. • Consultations with social researchers in government and private agencies, and with members of ISR and ethics review boards, suggested that current practices of review and scrutiny of proposed research in relation to ethnicity are largely informal and heavily reliant on the interest and expertise of particular individuals. • Social researchers are aware of the importance of being able to appropriately incorporate attention to ethnicity within their work and many acknowledge the challenges this brings and the need for greater guidance and support. • There is evidence that members of ISR and ethics boards who review social science research proposals would also receive guidance positively. • Overall, there appears to be a significant need and demand for guidance in this area. • Nevertheless, some dissenting voices can be heard, including those who are confident that the issues are already adequately addressed; those who are concerned that guidance serves to constrain creativity and hamper research; and those who question whether it is necessary to focus increased attention on ethnicity (in some cases seeing this as a specialist area or of marginal interest). In this chapter we draw primarily on findings from our review and consultation exercises, though the results of the piloting exercises provide additional evidence in support of some of the issues raised below. Is existing guidance adequate? Our review work suggested some significant inadequacies in both the guidance documents produced by the AcSS Learned Societies and the body of published literature that might serve to guide researchers in relation to researching ethnicity. Our review of the AcSS Learned Societies revealed that fewer than half of the 32 Societies (n = 13) had produced documents for their members that explicitly addressed research ethics and/or scientific standards, while four others had documents relating to professional conduct that included some men- tion of research standards. The remaining Societies (n = 15) did not have any documentation providing 18 Need for and desirability of guidanceguidance to their members on these issues. A range of explanations were offered for the absence of Society-specific guidance by Society chairs/secretaries in response to our email enquiries, including that the small size of the Society meant there was no capacity to develop such guidance; the multidisciplinary nature of the Society made it difficult to produce guidance suitable for all; the Society saw no need to produce such guidance because it did not award research funding; the Society was configured as a forum for debate rather than a regulatory body; and it was felt that producing such guidance might be viewed as calling into question the integrity of individual Society members. Five of these Societies said that they expected their members to follow the ethical guidelines and professional standards of their host institutions; other Societies referred their members to guidance produced by other bodies, such as the Social Research Association (SRA) and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). Where documents were available, our review found little explicit reference to ethnicity (or related concepts such as race, culture or religion) from either a research ethics or a scientific standards point of view. This limited attention appears intentional in some cases, with a number of Societies – notably the SRA – intentionally adopting more generic language in an effort to be inclusive of all potential categories or axes of difference (an issue to which we return in ‘Privileging ethnicity’ below). However, more commonly, the lack of explicit attention seems likely to have resulted from oversight. Regardless of the rationale, the absence of explicit reference to ethnic diversity or minority ethnic groups begs the question of whether the existing guidance statements will effectively alert researchers to the need to consider ethnicity. In particular, our review found little in current documentation that guides researchers as to when social research should include attention to ethnicity. We did, however, identify relevant statements in several documents relating to three linked themes: (i) research should benefit wider society; (ii) research should not overlook sub-groups within society; and (iii) researchers should consider the potential (differential) consequences of their work and their findings for different ‘groups’. However, such generic statements seem unlikely to prompt researchers to consider carefully whether their work should include attention to ethnicity, or indeed to reflect on the existing body of knowledge and whether it adequately represents, and effectively serves the needs of, our multiethnic population. In addition, Society documents offer little in the way of guidance to researchers on how they should address the complex scientific issues that arise when researching ethnic diversity. It may be considered beyond the scope of Society guidance on ethics and professional conduct to provide detailed instruction on how to carry out research studies. Nevertheless, issues of scientific and ethical standards closely inter-relate. At the least, it would seem important for ethical guidance to explicitly alert researchers to some of the potential complexities and to point them in the direction of additional appropriate support. Turning now to our review of published literature on the conceptual and methodological issues arising in researching ethnicity, our searches produced a large number of relevant contributions and we were able to extract many useful principles, which we present in Chapter 4. Nevertheless, finding relevant material was not straightforward, with esoteric titles making some useful contributions hard to track down and disciplinary specificity meaning that some contributions were inaccessible to a more general social science audience. Furthermore, there were some noticeable limitations and gaps, including some that related to issues identified as needing greater support during our consultation exercises (see Chapter 4). While our review was not intended to be exhaustive, it seems unlikely that we overlooked much material that would be readily accessible to other researchers seeking guidance in this area. We can therefore ask whether the current body of knowledge adequately guides and supports social researchers, particularly those who are new to incorporating attention to ethnicity. We identified the following limitations. First, there is more material that is concerned with how to conduct research on ethnicity than when or why attention should be given to ethnic diversity. There is little to help researchers decide whether a study should include attention to ethnicity or how central the focus on ethnicity should be. There is also little to convince those who are not already aware of the need to consider ethnic diversity. Consultations with researchers and with members of ISR and ethics boards also suggested that this is an area where further clarity is needed, with respondents in both groups expressing uncertainty Need for and desirability of guidance 19about how to decide, and how to justify, when attention to ethnicity is warranted, or indeed should be prioritised, and when it can justifiably be ignored. Our review of published papers suggested that, where ethnicity is a research focus, researchers are often not explicit about their rationale and may draw on varied arguments in support of their approach. Fourteen papers (out of 35 that had some reference to ethnicity and/or race) were found to include some kind of rationale for why attention to ethnicity and/or race was warranted. In nine papers, the authors made reference to ethnic or racial inequalities, thereby invoking the notion that research can (and perhaps should) contribute towards efforts to bring about social justice. In two papers, the authors justified their approach by reference to the multiethnic nature of their field location, thereby implying (though not discussing in any detail) that research should yield findings that are representative of the population to which they might be applied. In three papers, authors referred to conceptual and/or empirical inadequacies in the existing research base. These authors identified the aim of their paper as contributing to filling such gaps, thereby situating their own work within the broader body of research evidence and the extent to which it serves the needs of the multiethnic population. Among the papers that had not given any attention to ethnicity it was rare to find any justification for the omission or any discussion of the potential limitations of the research findings for a multiethnic context. Having stated that the literature focuses predominantly on how and not whether or when to incorporate attention to ethnicity, it is important to note a second limitation – namely, that there is more discussion of pitfalls and shortcomings than clear examples of how to achieve good practice. While many of the papers reviewed raised important issues for reflection, our consultation exercises suggested that social researchers want more explicit illustrations of how to go about designing and conducting research in the real world. One particular area where this disjuncture is keenly felt relates to the requirement for enhanced conceptual sophistication on the one hand and a lack of clarity on how to put the investigation of ethnicity into practice on the other. In particular, the predominant focus in many of the sociological contributions on the fluid and context-specific nature of ethnic identities may not sit easily with stark and persistent inequalities that social researchers are frequently tasked with understanding or the demands from policy-makers for findings that relate to fixed, statutory ethnic categories. A further limitation relates to the inadequate material that is available to guide researchers in designing sampling and recruitment approaches and how these should link to conceptualisations of ethnicity on the one hand and to analysis strategies on the other. Whether a study adopts a quantitative or qualitative methodology, and regardless of the unit of analysis, researchers can adopt a variety of approaches to defining and selecting their sample or the body of data to be generated. For instance, in quantitative studies that take individual people as the unit of analysis, studies can adopt one of essentially three different sampling approaches: exclusive (focusing on people identified as belonging to just one delineated ethnic category); representative (aiming to ensure that the distribution of ethnicity found within the study’s sample is the same as that found in the wider ‘target’ population to which the study’s results are intended to apply); or comparative (aiming to recruit equal numbers of participants from two or more ethnic ‘groups’ to assess the relationship between ethnicity and the outcome of interest). While we have begun to identify some of the issues that researchers need to take into consideration when identifying sampling approaches (Salway and Ellison, 2010), this area has received far less attention than other aspects of research design, such as designing data collection tools for use in ethnically and linguistically diverse samples. Does current research practice suggest a need for greater guidance? Both our review of published empirical papers and our consultation exercises with social researchers in a variety of settings and ISR/ethics board members strongly suggest a need and potential demand for greater guidance and support in researching ethnicity. Drawing first on our consultation exercises, the overall impression was that current practices of review and scrutiny of proposed research in relation to ethnicity are largely informal and heavily reliant 20 Need for and desirability of guidance