Ethical awareness and socio-legal research in the UK

Authored by: Victoria Brooks

Routledge Handbook of Socio-Legal Theory and Methods

Print publication date:  August  2019
Online publication date:  August  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138592902
eBook ISBN: 9780429952814
Adobe ISBN:


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Before carrying out work in the socio-legal field, it is necessary to consider the ethical implications of the work and to go through the required ethical approval processes. Often, depending on the project, this will be straightforward, as the work will not give rise to significant ethical dilemmas. Sometimes though, in projects that will involve human subjects and sensitive issues such as mental health and sexuality, investigated either through quantitative or qualitative methods, further ethical enquiry will be necessary. This further enquiry will usually entail consideration of the project by a research ethics committee, who will be checking the application to ensure that there is no danger to the researcher or to the institution. The kind of risk considered is usually physical, financial, legal, and/or reputational. This chapter considers the likely ethical questions that will be asked of socio-legal work and how to navigate the process of dealing with these questions. I also look at an example of how a ‘risky’ participatory sexuality project can produce particular challenges to ethical regimes. These challenges are both to the underlying prejudices in the decision-making processes of ethics committees and to academia as a conventional and ‘straight’ space. I consider how we, as socio-legal scholars, might navigate these prejudices, the types of prejudice that might be encountered, the potential effects on research, and the necessity of confronting and challenging these prejudices through ethical awareness in socio-legal research.

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