Luke – Non Academic Expertise

How will you react to non-academic forms of expertise?

  • I will ensure that participants are well represented by my research by making sure that I communicate which of their data and results I am using.

I believe that good research should be responsive to the needs and wishes of participants. This is not just good practice, but also, I believe, critical to meaningful informed consent. The classic example of researchers not accurately representing their participants is William Foote Whyte’s Street Corner Society (1993). Although the book was a good read, and at least felt insightful, after the book’s publication, a number of participants felt that they had not been represented fairly (Boelen 1992). Therefore, I want to commit to ensuring that my participants are informed of my use of their data, and how they appear in my writing. Participants could have access to drafts, or I can communicate with participants through calls, writing or email.

  • I believe that this cuts a good balance between participants being more involved in research and time and interest practicalities.

However, authors such as Kitchen (2000) argue that it is difficult for researchers to achieve a perfect representation of groups which they do not belong to (for example able bodied researchers describing the experience of disabled participants). A more involved model of co-producing with participants may therefore be necessary. Although I think that participant co-production is an admirable and worthwhile technique as part of a wider “toolbox” of methods, I do not think that it offers a panacea for producing good quality research in general. Kitchen, for example, found that many disabled people who were the subjects of research felt that academia did not represent the real day to day experience of disability well, time and work commitments of all parties involved presented a practical limit to this method (2000). Ensuring that participants are given the chance to make corrections to researcher’s interpretations seems to cut a good balance between these tensions.

  • However, I would also like the opportunity to co -produce research with a group of participants.

I would like to stress that I do not, therefore think that research should become less democratic, or that inclusion of participants in research design, data production and analysis is a bad thing. Rather, as Kitchen’s study shows that ‘inclusion provides a platform from where disabled people can speak for themselves, to seek the services and support they want, to explicitly influence social policy and fight for disabled rights. As such, the shared benefits to researchers, policy makers and disabled co-researchers potentially outweigh costs in terms of time and organisation’ (Kitchen 2000, p. 39). Although the “costs in terms of time and organisation” present a real challenge, co-producing research still seems like a great way to promote more convincing and “truthful” research, as well as the political interests of our participants.

References

Foot White, W. (1993). Street Corner Society: The Social Structure of an Italian Slum. London: University of Chicago Press.

Boelen, W. A. M. (1992). Street Corner Society: Cornerville Revisited. [Online]. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography. 21. pp. 13 – 51. Available from: https://moodle.kent.ac.uk/2016/pluginfile.php/93116/mod_resource/content/1/Boelen%201992.pdf [Accessed 18/03/2016].

Kitchen, R. (2000). The Researrched Opinions on Research: Disabled People and Disability Research. [Online}. Disability and Society. 15. 1. pp. 25 – 47. Available from: http://eprints.maynoothuniversity.ie/3911/1/RK_Researched_Opinions.pdf [Accessed 18/03/2017].

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