About

Context: contemporary conflict research ethics

The past two decades have seen a major expansion in the breadth and depth of research on
armed conflict, oppression, and inequality. Our research methods and tools have grown more
advanced. This includes exponential increases in access to available data and datasets,
independent and collaborative fieldwork, and technical advances like machine learning and
big data mining. There are strong incentives for generating new knowledge and research
programs that address challenging and volatile issues by working with under-explored
research sites or marginalized populations.
As the number and scope of contemporary armed conflicts increases, and commensurate
research expands, we need more than ever to be attentive to the risks associated with
researching issues of violence and inequality. At the same time as our information and
connectedness have been growing, spaces for critical reflection and building professional
communities of care have been receding. In examining power dynamics and ethical
engagement in conflict research, this workshop will make our collective field of study more
rigorous, effective, and intentional in its contribution to tackling challenges in policy and
practice.
 

Objective: creating community for best practice

Research is rarely neutral or inert, and calls for greater research impact and engaged
scholarship demand careful navigation of power and authority in academic work. This
workshop, supported by the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs and Harvard
Kennedy School, will gather together leading scholars to discuss, document, and disseminate
the state of the art for conducting ethical research on violence and oppression in its myriad
forms. Without care, compassion, and accountability in a strong professional ethical
community, conflict-related topics can quickly become high-risk for researchers, affected
communities, and the broader objective of evidence-based change for the common good.
This advanced workshop will provide a closed-door space for candid and confidential
discussion and examination of key ethical issues arising in different types of research on
conflict, inequality, and violence amongst experienced leaders in the field. We will request
short memos in advance of the workshop that focus on ethical dilemmas and trade-offs
arising from participants’ respective research methods and questions. We expect a possible
outcome may be a new collection of essays that makes pointed contributions to
interdisciplinary research, new methods and technologies, and balancing issues of impact and
engagement with risks of access and transparency.
 

 

Conveners

Zoe Marks, Harvard Kennedy School

Erica Chenoweth, Harvard Kennedy School

Karen Brounéus, Uppsala University