featured

Cultivating citizen science for all

By Stephanie Chesser, Michelle M. Porter & Anthony G. Tuckett

Cultivating citizen science for all: Ethical considerations for research projects involving diverse and marginalized populations is a critical appraisal and offers practical advice on the ethical considerations for citizen science projects involving diverse and marginalized populations. Our take-home message is two-fold: (1) explaining how the citizen science community can conduct research in ways that value inclusivity, adaptability, sensitivity, safety, and reciprocity; and (2) explaining why researchers designing citizen science projects ought scaffold every aspect of their research according to The Golden Rule. With this in mind, we have argued that citizen scientist volunteers are better positioned to be treated authentically and never as a mere means to an end. Ultimately, we contend that by implementing these recommendations, citizen science projects will be well-placed—from an ethical perspective—to achieve meaningful community engagement.

We put forward an argument for several ethical research considerations that we feel are necessary for citizen science projects wanting to involve individuals from traditionally marginalized groups (e.g. older people). To do this we first describe the notion of ethics in the context of citizen science research and some of the approaches professional researchers may choose to incorporate into projects to help ensure that citizen scientists are able to participate in meaningful and non-harmful ways. Finally, weaving together examples from published citizen science research in the human and health sciences along with current recommended standards for conducting citizen science, we suggest that projects with marginalized populations attend to five specific research elements: inclusivity, adaptability, sensitivity, safety, and reciprocity.

Our work is an international collaboration. It is a collaboration that has spanned four (4) years, but it is a manuscript that has required 18 months of dedicated thinking, writing and unwavering perseverance to have it come into print. We would say though, that when you know you have a manuscript with a useful message, it is worth pushing on and to never give up. It is a paper of two integrated parts – the backbone of the work is the five (5) elements around which we have wrapped the muscular core- an applied ethics approach encapsulated by the Golden Rule.

MP is the link between AT and SC, though AT and SC have never met. MP and AT met four years ago at a large, multidisciplinary, international meeting exploring the application of an approach to citizen science specifically in the health context. All three of us work with and are committed to the well-being of older people. SC and MP work closely together on a daily basis and co-created the ‘backbone’ whilst AT bought the applied ethics ‘muscularity’.  The writing and redrafting was very much an iterative process – questioning and challenging ideas and the clarity of meaning.  SC and MP nicely kept AT on task and his frustrations tempered. We were never writing a philosophical thesis. In the beginning and for the duration SC pushed the work on, whilst in the latter and final strides, AT got the manuscript over the line! In the thinking-writing nexus, we were also able to capitalise on the academic workload variations between north and south hemispheres so that as one of us got overwhelmed, fed-up or fatigued, the other stepped up to the plate. The writing team was a perfect fit.

featured

Using creative methods to research across difference

By Rachel Brooks

Although there is now a substantial literature on the use of creative methods within the social sciences, relatively little work has explored the value of such approaches to researching across difference, specifically. Our interest in this topic came about during a project we were working on (Eurostudents), which involved conducting a plasticine modelling exercise during focus groups with undergraduate students in six European countries. We were concerned that differences in academic culture might have a bearing on participants’ willingness to engage in the modelling, and perhaps also on the type of models produced. While our fears were, in the end, unfounded, we began to think more about the ways in which differences by nationality – but also by other social markers – may affect the use of creative methods. To this end, we organised a seminar, held in June 2018 at the University of Surrey and kindly funded by the IJSRM, to bring together scholars who were using such methods to research various aspects of difference, and reflect on the associated challenges and benefits.

The special issue of IJSRM, published recently, is based primarily on the papers given at this event. A number of authors tease out various practical and ethical issues that they encountered, which were brought into sharp relief because of the cross-national context (see those by Burningham et al. and Harman et al.). In other respects, however, contributors suggest that the use of creative methods can help to overcome some of the challenges of working across different countries. Chawla-Duggan et al., for example, contend that their use of filming helped to alleviate some of the linguistic barriers that emerged from working across four different countries. Moving on to examine other aspects of difference, Donnelly et al.’s contribution explores the extent to which a sense of intra-national geographical difference (here, discussed primarily with reference to the UK) affected educational decision-making, while Bernardi’s research (conducted cross-nationally) focusses on a group of children who are often positioned as different (by virtue of their autism), and Rainford’s contribution foregrounds institutional differences instead. Lažetić’s critical appraisal of website analyses focuses on both institutional and national differences, and outlines an agenda for further developing work in this area.

Together, the papers demonstrate how a wide range of creative methods (including filming of participants; analysis of visual material on public websites; photo elicitation; facilitation of art workshops and activities; Lego modelling; and geographical mapping) can bring new insights to researching across difference with respect to various substantive areas of enquiry including education, family, violence, youth studies, childhood studies and disability.

Notebook

Confessions of a Muslim Researcher – Considering Identity in Research

By Maisha Islam

In this Research Note, I discuss some of the contentions I have faced when conducting research with Muslim students. As a Muslim myself, I initially believed it to be advantageous in conducting research with a community I also belong to. However, I was not prepared to question fundamental parts of my identity as I was conducting this research and throughout the research process.

Although my piece for the International Journal of Social Research Methodology has been reworked for publication, this paper originally emerged from a module I was taking looking at theory and ethics in Educational Practice as part of my professional doctorate in Education programme. This module gave me the opportunity to unpack the tensions I had faced in a safe and structured way, where I could delve into the literature exploring researcher identity whilst situating my own experiences within it. Whilst there have been authors who have explored the double-edged sword of conducting insider research, I myself was not prepared for some of the experiences (and the emotions they brought) I had encountered.

The paper outlines three main issues I’ve considered when interviewing Muslim students about sense of belonging, provisions provided for them in relation to their religious needs, and whether or not they believe to have been settling for less in terms of their university experience. These issues included: whether or not I was using inappropriate means to gather Muslim student research participants; If I was simply over-representing my own experiences when I was an undergraduate student and applying it to a wider Muslim student population; And how I began to question not only my beliefs but also my sense of religiosity when meeting and interviewing a wide array of Muslim students.

Within the paper, I exemplify where and how these issues have manifested. In doing so, and at times, it felt vulnerable in having to take myself back to uncomfortable situations. For example, one particular interview with a student not only made me feel like my own views were ‘too liberal’ but I also questioned why I was undertaking research when I was opening myself up to conflictual encounters. Additionally, why was I undertaking research, with the core aim to better understand and improve Muslim student experience, when my participants (notably, only one) could not appreciate this?

However, the paper is able to detail how I as a researcher have been able to reconcile with these critical incidents’, and that the research process and journey is bound to be one which brings uncomfortable situations. I conclude that, as an early career researcher, it is imperative to not only be reflexive in acknowledging such situations but, to be confident in confronting these situations. It is hoped that researchers who are embarking on the start of their journeys (particularly Muslim researchers) are able to take away lessons from this research note about and be more prepared when going into their field.

Calls

Call for special issue proposals

The IJSRM editors welcomes outline proposals for Special Issues or Themed Sections, to be submitted to the Journal editors by May 1st 2020.  Outline proposals should be submitted via email to tsrm-editor@tandf.co.uk

PLEASE NOTE: Submission for special issues or themed sections is a two-stage process. The first is an informal inquiry, which, if tentatively approved, requires, in the section stage, a more developed proposal, including significant ‘buy-in’ from the authors involved in the project.

STAGE 1: INITIAL INQUIRY

Special Issues consist of a ‘state of the art’ review by the guest issue editors and 7 or 8 articles.

Themed Sections consist of a brief introduction by guest section editors and 4 or 5 articles.

Outline proposals of no more than one A4 page should provide:

  • Indication of whether the proposal is for a Special Issue or Themed Section
  • Title/topic of proposed Special Issue or Themed Section
  • Name/s, affiliation/s and contact details of guest editors
  • Brief rationale for the timeliness, importance and international interest of the methodological topic and methods to be addressed

Proposal topics should fit with the Journal’s remit.  See the statement of aims and scope: https://www.tandfonline.com/action/journalInformation?show=aimsScope&journalCode=tsrm20

Outline proposals will be assessed by the Journal Editors and Board members.

STAGE 2: FORMAL SUBMISSION AND APPROVAL

Once the initial proposal is tentatively approved, the guest editors are required to put together a more formal summary of their project, including:

  • Abstracts (at minimum) for each of the papers.
  • Author buy-in, showing in some way author agreements to complete the project.  (This can be emails from authors, etc.)
  • A delivery timeline, including key milestones for completing project and final delivery date.  (We recognize that timelines change due to different circumstances, but overall, our approach is similar to a book contract insomuch as the agreed delivery date is expected to be honoured.)

Brian Castellani, Rosalind Edwards, Malcolm Williams, Co-editors
International Journal of Social Research Methodology

 

Announcements

The Early Career Researcher Article Prize 2019/20

The International Journal of Social Research Methodology is the leading European journal in social research methods and methodology with a five-year impact factor of 2.099.

We are pleased to announce the 2019/20 competition for papers written by early career researchers (ECRs), who are either current doctoral students or in their first three years of post-doctoral employment since the date of their doctoral graduation day.  

We particularly welcome sole authored ECR articles but will also consider joint authored articles where the ECR is the main/lead editor and is responsible for 70% or more of the paper.

A prize of £500 will be awarded to the best paper, and this and runners up will be published in the Journal. They will be free to access until the end of 2020. 

The journal aims to encourage high quality rigorous papers that provide an original contribution to current and emerging methodological debates and methodological practice across a range of approaches qualitative, quantitative, hybrid and mixed methods. The prize has been established to encourage and recognise research and contributions from new scholars in these debates and practices.

Potential contributors should carefully read the Aims and Scope of the Journal at http://www.tandfonline.com/action/journalInformation?show=aimsScope&journalCode=tsrm20  and Instructions for Authors at  http://www.tandfonline.com/action/authorSubmission?journalCode=tsrm20&page=instructions. 

Papers submitted between October 1st 2019 and June 30th 2020 will be considered as entries in the competition.

All papers will be subject to the journal’s normal refereeing process and the best paper will be selected by the editors and representatives of the editorial board. Papers will be expected to reach the normal publishing standard of the journal and in the unlikely event that none do, the journal reserves the right to publish none and not award the prize.

Questions concerning the competition should be sent to Malcolm Williams WilliamsMD4@cardiff.ac.uk and papers for consideration to tsrm-editor@tandf.co.uk. Your covering letter should indicate that you would like your paper to be considered for the competition and a statement of eligibility as an ECR.

Announcements

The winners of our ECR paper competition for 2018

In 2018 IJSRM ran a competition for papers written by early career researchers (ECRs) who were either current doctoral students or in their first three years of post-doctoral employment.  Our aim was to encourage and recognise research and contributions from new scholars in current and emerging methodological debates and practice.

All entries were subject to the Journal’s usual refereeing processes and had to reach our normal publishing standard.  The winners were selected by a sub-panel of members of the IJSRM Editorial Board and the Journal Editors. The panel identified two articles as joint winners of the ‘Best ECR Article’. Both have been made free to access until the end of 2019. 

Fabio Hirschhorn’s article reflected on application of the Delphi method.  Fabio, who is a PhD candidate at Delft University of Technology, Netherlands, explains:

I reflect on the use of the Delphi method in the context of research on the governance of public transport services. The Delphi has become a tool to address varied research questions, producing and employing both quantitative and qualitative information, in a multiplicity of scientific fields, also helping achieve several types of outcomes beyond only consensus. This flexibility for researchers to tailor a survey according to specific needs while still keeping core features that ensure the scientific robustness of the method, is, in my view, the greatest merit of the Delphi. 

Nicole Brown’s article reflecting on using identity boxes to elicit experiences.  Nicole, who is a PhD candidate at the University of Kent, and a Lecturer in Education and an Academic Head of Learning and Teaching based at the UCL Institute of Education, UK, explains: 

I consider the identity boxes and their contents as data in themselves, analysing them using not a more conventional form of qualitative analysis but also a less traditional arts-based method that led to an artistic installation and an illustrated poem. I found that these representations spoke to audiences in a way that the written word could not. What is most intriguing for me about this material approach is the depth of data that emerges through asking participants to engage with research questions intuitively.

Nicole and Fabio remarked on what winning the IJSRM ECR prize means to them:

Nicole: Being told that my work was awarded IJSRM’s “Best ECR Article” prize was particularly special. Not only has my work been deemed worthy of publication, the editorial board and journal editors, who are all eminent academics in the field, have given my work their seal of approval. I have always enjoyed learning about, experimenting with and teaching research methods and to me this prize now confirms that my work contributes to the advancement of the field. 

Fabio: It is a great honor to win the ‘Best Early Career Researcher Article’ prize from a prestigious outlet as the International Journal of Social Research Methodology. This prize is a great incentive to early career researchers whose work is seldom recognized. In my case, this achievement not only makes me very proud about my past effort, but also motivates me to further strive to produce high-quality and high-impact research in coming years. 

Many congratulations to Fabio and Nicole!

Notebook

The Methodological Chaos of Adverse Childhood Experiences

By Rosalind Edwards

The methodologies behind evidence that policymakers and service providers can adopt as ‘magic bullets’ to solve social ills rarely get attention. One such bullet is the notion of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), which has been gathering speed as a basis for family policy and decision-making.  However, there are telling methodological and evidential drawbacks to ACEs, which seem to be left aside, particularly in terms of understanding and addressing the very real adversities that parents and children may face. Also, the varying definitions of what constitutes ACEs and different study designs for researching them mean that there’s no cohesive body of knowledge.

In terms of a definition, ACEs are an attempt to identify a set of traumatic conditions experienced before the age of 18, and to trace the combined ‘score’ (baldly, the number) of events in a simple causal manner through to the long-term damaged physical and mental health that these early experiences are said to create. Findings from studies using ACEs are regarded as rigorous ‘hard’ data for policy and decision-making; because they are quantitative they appear concrete and exact.

While statistical methods and evidence certainly have an important role to play in policy-making, the provisional and uncertain nature of quantitative social science in a complex and dynamic social world gets obscured in the rush to certainty. Weak measures, measurement error, missing data, and statistical significance cautions get swept aside. And yet they are evident in ACEs studies.

The need for caveats concerning ACEs evidence is compounded when the range of ‘inputs’ that are identified as adverse experiences are so ambiguous. For rigorous tracing of causal inputs through to effects, ACEs need to be a clearly defined set of experiences. And yet they lack cohesion in nature and extent. They encompass a shifting ragbag of possible abuses, dysfunction and extent of severity, timing and duration.

In standard ACEs inventories the boundaries between quite common family circumstances and abnormal experiences become blurred. For example, a ‘yes’ answer to ‘were your parents ever separated or divorced?’ is considered an ACE no matter whether it was amicable or adversarial, or occurred before the respondent was born, when a toddler, or age 17. Similarly the ACE criteria ‘living with anyone who was depressed, mentally ill or suicidal’ takes no account of who this is, for how long, and does not distinguish between the person feeling dejected and miserable or suffering clinical depression.

As the idea of ACEs gains popularity in policy and practice, the net is being cast more widely to add further situations to the standard inventories. The motley experiences reflect the agendas of the various agencies and researchers putting them forward. They include parental disability, mothers’ health, lack of childrearing routine, ‘inter-parental’ conflict, moving home, and violence involving a sibling or peer. The implication is that these different issues and the variety of combinations of them are comparable, underpinned by a common mechanism, rather than considering that different adversities may have different effects dependent on context.

There’s further chaos to the methodologies adopted by ACEs studies. Typical to a lot of research surveys into subjective wellbeing, there are retrospective studies subject to people’s recollections, and prospective longitudinal designs subject to the specificities of the temporal period they start from. There are different sources of information and assessment, from the subject of the ACEs themselves or a parent or a professional.

Whatever their methodology, though, what the vast majority of putative ACEs have in common is their narrow remit of consideration. They focus on and isolate the ‘household’ and in particular mother and child.

There’s no attention to the influence of subsequent experiences later in life in ameliorating or exacerbating the effects of stressful life events in childhood. And the concept and measurement of ACEs doesn’t capture confounding contextual issues that are beyond parental control or that can harm people emotionally and physically, such as being subject to racism/Islamophobia and misogyny. They don’t extent to contextual factors beyond the parent-child that may be harmful or mediating and supportive in the face of adversity.

In all, the methodological chaos of ACEs provides no indication of how best to intervene, can’t point to whether or not an intervention and of what type and when works, and can’t be used to predict individuals at risk. Yet it’s being implemented to drive policy and practice interventions.

Researchers investigating ACEs need to take care about claiming a body of knowledge in the face of chaotic definitions, and about the claims for certainty made in their findings about cause and effect. We have a duty to point out caveats clearly to policymakers and service providers. In turn, however tempting it may be to seize on a ‘magic bullet’ solution to social ills, policymakers and service providers need to be more cautious and questioning. And all need to widen their focus and concerns, to look outside narrow parent-child relations and address the adversities that poverty and prejudice pose for people’s mental and physical health.