“I don’t believe in ethics anymore. As far as I am concerned, the ends justify the means.” Calvin, of Bill Watterson’s famous Calvin and Hobbes comic strip, explains why telos, the Greek word for the end, matters the most.
THE ENDS JUSTIFY THE MEANS!
Telos could mean agreeable or disagreeable consequences of action. Recently I have facilitated a workshop session on Applying Ethics in Agriculture Research.
One of the workshop participants from Europe discussing the organizational challenges in doing ‘ethical’ social science research said, “Listen, for performance appraisal the HR counts more publications. My boss promotes more ‘you co-author mine, and I co-author your papers’. The CEO loves more research grants from (m)any donors. Personally, moremeans salary hike! Doesn’t matter how you do it. Period.” It made me wonder whether social science ethics is evolving.
ETHICS IS ABOUT RIGHT(S), NOT MORE
We know all about academic and research institute’s craving for a long publication and research grants list. The bigger the list the better! No matter whether you follow ethics of doing good social science research. What is ethics anyway?
Ethics is two-fold: what the researcher has a right to do, and what is right to do. There is not only right or wrong in ethics. Ethics could be about the choice between two rights. So, the choice to decide between right vs. right is simple. Get more whatever it takes.
THE ‘PUBLISH OR PERISH’ SCIENCE ETHICS
Here is my list of ten types on publish or perish ethics in social science research authorships that could define a future of sustainable development.
10. Author vs. Writer (aka. Literature Review)
Michel Foucault, in his essay ‘What Is Author?’ (1969), explains that all authors are writers, but not all writers are authors. The literature review is writer’s work. Researchers use only literature review to publish ‘scientific papers’. Justification: A compilation of several authors’ work. Effect: The writer is re-packing the old stories.
9. The White Bull Effect
L.S. Kwok’s (2005) paper on ‘White Bull Effect’ aptly touches upon the vulnerability of junior researchers in claiming their authorship. Justification: Seniority matters. The paper needs to be published. Effect: Discouragement for the junior researchers.
8. The Proofreading Author
Agreed that to proofread interns’ or PhD student’s research work takes time. Therefore, claiming the co-authorship has become a new norm. Justification: Invested time to do the proofreading. Effect: Dependency plays a key role in demanding co-authorships in research without contributing in the research.
7. Reduce Carbon Footprint
Why travel to countries that are in conflict, or when you run out of research funds? Instead outsource through individual ‘fellowships’ in the global south and help reduce carbon footprint. Justification: Empower local research fellows for big data. Effect: The research lacks first-hand knowledge.
6. Ghost Author
The publication will continue without the author(s). Justification: The senior decides who will be the author. Effect: The (key) contributor is left out.
5. Donor Research Authors
Nothing to deny that donor funds direct the research agenda. Efficient authors have ready to adapt research draft proposals in the pipeline. Justification: If I don’t someone else will take the funds. Effect: Business as usual.
4. N’importe Quoi Participatory Research
Ideally the aim is that people are not mere ‘subjects’ or ‘participants’, but they are actively involved in the study. Justification: Participation, n’importe quoi, is a key ‘word’ to get research grants. Effect: Namesake participation, or maybe a guided participation.
3. Guest and Privileged Authors
The logic behind adding your bosses’ name or other prominent people’s does not require to be explained. Justification: So what they are not involved we need their name to get this paper pass through the review process. Effect: Rarely helps in development outcomes, but does not seem to have too many side effects.
2. All Foreign Authors
Two economist gender experts from developed countries had written a piece on rural women’s access to land in global-south. To this a senior policy diplomat’s opinion was we never refer papers that are solely written by foreign authors. Justification: Lack of ‘good’ researchers in global south. Effect: Creates a gap, particularly, making ‘we’ vs. ‘them’.
1. Tourist Authors
One of the workshop participants announced a big research grant to study in a holiday island. The not-so-surprising logic for site selection is a nice combination of family vacation while doing the fieldwork. No language skill or prior local contacts needed. Like a tourist just hire a translator and pay a local NGO for its services. Justification: 60days of tourist visa to complete the data collection (and sight-seeing!). Effect: Calvin mantra, “Get what you can while the getting’s good… and let others argue about whether its right or not.”
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Purabi Bose, Ph.D.
Passionate about nature and social policy, Ms. Bose is a mountaineer/ trekker, drummer, polyglot (only ten languages), leads a less materialistic lifestyle and loves traditional cooking & feeding.
She is perseverant, and values her freedom of being an independent woman.
Ms. Bose is a versatile social scientist and has aptitude for creative communications.
A 'people person', her academic background is in social anthropology, environmental science, food science and human development.
You might be interested to read her reviews on various cultural events at Culture Call