Skip to content

Collecting data

Collecting data requires building and maintaining relationships with diverse stakeholders as well as with research participants. When thinking about research participants, we need to carefully consider the complex interplay between vulnerability and agency.

The first two resources in this section, Lange et al. (2013) and Rogers et al. (2012), deal with the notion of vulnerability. They add complexity to our analysis of who among research participants is vulnerable by contextualising vulnerabilities and elaborating on different types of vulnerability. In this way they encourage researchers to avoid blanket statements about vulnerability and autonomy, instead adopting a more nuanced approach.

The paper by Otieno Nyambedha (2008) provides a case study exploring the vulnerabilities of communities affected by HIV in Kenya and how ethical issues that arose in the course of the work were addressed through community dialogue and feedback.  Another example of context and community specific approaches to vulnerability is a paper by Molyneux et al. (2016) on community engagement with gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men in a context where homosexuality is illegal.  Molyneux et al. (2016) note that ethical dilemmas encountered were “related to interactions and relationships between individuals operating at different levels or positions in health/research systems [and that] potential ‘solutions’ to dilemmas often lead to new issues and complications.”

Drawing on data from Kenya, the paper by Kamuya et al. (2017) studied gendered household processes and how they shape, and can be shaped by, interactions with field workers. The second resource by Kamaya et al. (2014) has a focus on fieldworkers as the gatekeepers and conduits of benefits to communities and how this challenging position is navigated in practice.  Also focusing on field workers, Kingori and Gerrets (2016) explore the reasons underpinning fabrication in process of collecting data. They found that:

“…Fabrications were motivated by irreconcilable moral concerns, faltering morale resulting from poor management, and inadequate institutional support. To fieldworkers, data fabrication constituted a ‘tool’ for managing their quotidian challenges. Fabrications ranged from active to passive acts, to subvert, resist and readdress tensions deriving from employment inequalities and challenging socio-economic conditions.”

House et al. (2016) raise important questions for ethical enquiry in the face of political and other disruptions in the settings under enquiry. This paper provides generalisable lessons for those working in real world settings which are subject to rapid change and instability.