Research ethics in planning:
PROPOSAL FOR AN AESOP THEMATIC GROUP
New documents have been added to this site! (May 21st, 2007)
Francesco Lo Piccolo
Department “Città e Territorio”, Università degli Studi di Palermo, email@example.com
School of City and Regional Planning, Cardiff University, ThomasH1@cf.ac.uk
This TG is based on the contention that research into planning raises ethical issues which are distinctive enough to warrant more attention than the routine references to standard social science discussions which are the usual responses of research monographs and doctoral theses.
The TG would like to consider a series of relationships which define the context within which the planning researcher operates:
1. with sponsors of research;
2. with the ‘subject’ of research;
3. with colleagues;
4. with the political context within which the research will be conducted and findings disseminated.
It is argued that in each of these relationships there are distinctive ethical challenges for planning research.
Our purpose in this TG is to explore a way of thinking about planning research which considers the social context of moral perception and behaviour. By doing this we hope to shift the emphasis of discussion from individual probity to the circumstances which help researchers develop and use sound ethical judgement. This approach has implications for the kinds of institutions within which planning research can be undertaken, and the likely source of the most potent threats to both excellence in research and ethical behaviour.
Ethics, Planning research, Planning practice
PROGRAMME: TOPICS TO BE DISCUSSED
The purpose of the TG is to build up a framework for considering ethical issues in planning research. Most researchers could list some of the ethical considerations that they feel should shape the conduct of research; some will have personal experience of ethical dilemmas related to research. This TG would like to explore whether anything systematic can be said about how such ethical issues arise, hence how they might be understood, and addressed.
To an extent, codes of professional ethics take on the task of structuring the ethical landscape of research, but they tend not to explain why the structure is as it is – much is left unsaid. More importantly, by their nature they focus on individual behaviour in a social vacuum. Their concern is advising and admonishing individual professionals. They tend therefore towards a view of ethics as an heroic endeavour in which the key feature of the ethical landscape is the individual resisting the temptations of the world.
Without questioning for a moment the significance of individual moral responsibility we wish to emphasise the significance of social context, and more specifically the social nature of our lives, in structuring our moral perception – ie our knowledge and judgement of morality. This emphasis highlights important ethical dilemmas and threats which are overlooked or misunderstood if the individual is too exclusively the focus of attention.
Planning research, like any other kind of social science research, is an intervention in people’s lives. This intervention in itself changes people’s lives, and that is not simply an intellectual concern, but also has profound ethical implications, especially when the consequences impact upon people who are socially disadvantaged and politically powerless. Even when satisfied that they can, or have, exercise(d) proper sensitivity in conducting their research, researchers in public policy disciplines like planning must face the possibility that their findings will be used by others in ways of which they disapprove.
Planning researchers willing to explore the ethical dilemmas of their research and/or practice, through case studies, personal experience and story telling. The final aim of this work is to collect the most relevant experiences in a publication.
Added May 21st, 2007:
A useful Research Ethics Reference List
Research ethics in the context of
racialised conflict and oppression
AESOP Conference, Naples 2007
Download the document here