The Anthropologist and the Crayons: Changing Our Focus From Avoiding Harm to Doing Good
Journal of Empirical Research on Human Research Ethics 2006 June; 1(2): 79-87
THE ETHICAL REVIEW PROCESS is aimed at protecting research participants, evaluating risk in relation to benefit, and, where possible, reducing risk to research participants (and by extension, to the sponsoring organizations). In practice, however, there is usually much focus on risk and little on benefit. However, social research presents an opportunity to give active benefits to many constituents: the research participants, the host community, the researcher and research team members, the sponsoring institution and funding agency, the academic community, and society at large. Even when benefits are considered, the proximal benefits-those that actually accrue during (and because of) the investigator's presence-are too often overlooked by both investigators and ethics committees in favor of the more distal benefits related to the contribution to knowledge. The research design and review processes can both be redirected to focus more centrally on imagining, creating and extending the benefits of our work.
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