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Social research for a multiethnic population: do the research ethics and standards guidelines of UK Learned Societies address this challenge?

By S. Salway, P. J. Allmark, R. Barley, G. Higginbottom, K. Gerrish and G. Ellison


There is increasing recognition in the UK that social science research should generate an evidence base that reflects the ethnic diversity of the population and informs positive developments in public policy and programmes for all. However, describing and understanding ethnic diversity, and associated disadvantage, is far from straightforward. In practice, the ethical and scientific arguments around whether and how to incorporate ethnicity into policy-relevant social research are complex and contentious. In particular, untheorised or insensitive inclusion of data on ethnic 'groups' can have negative consequences. The present investigation begins to explore the extent to which social scientists have access to advice and guidance in this area of research. Specifically, the paper examines how ethnic diversity is explicitly or implicitly considered within the research ethics and scientific standard guidance provided by UK social science Learned Societies to their members. The review found little in the way of explicit attention to ethnic diversity in the guidance documents, but nevertheless identified a number of pertinent themes. The paper compiles and extrapolates these themes to present a tentative set of principles for social scientists to debate and further develop

Year: 2009
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