Sharing Data and Results With Study Participants: Report on a Survey of Cultural Anthropologists
Journal of Empirical Research on Human Research Ethics 2008 December; 3(4): 19-34
A first-ever survey of cultural anthropologists was conducted concerning the sharing of data, interpretations, and results with study participants. Briefly summarized, the study showed that almost all of the survey respondents had shared data or results with participants and almost all found this to be a positive experience. They had carried out research in many countries, some over long periods of time, and many had completed several field projects. Most believe that researchers, either alone or in consultation with participants and their groups, should decide whether, when, and what to share. Anthropologists find that sharing produces many benefits, for themselves as individuals and as researchers, for individual participants, and for the communities, groups, or institutions to which the latter belong. The perceived harms that might result from sharing have to do particularly with potential threats to privacy, confidentiality or anonymity, as well as the possibilities of social conflict and oppression. Thus, researchers have serious concerns about the sharing of certain kinds of data that might lead to such consequences. While many or most respondents think that sharing is the ethically proper course of action, they are very aware of the complexities of particular situations and the need for nuanced decision making. Most think that the researcher should play a major role in deciding whether sharing should take place and what should be shared. Hence, for these cultural anthropologists, in the end, sharing requires trying to balance the good of sharing with the good of doing no harm to those with whom they have done research.
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