The physical and socio-political positions of researchers have implications for health systems research in terms of the development of research questions, the way research is conducted, and its eventual impact.
Positions can be informed by an individual’s personal characteristics such as age, ethnicity, sex, nationality, class and so on. But they can also be considered by how close they are to a system and those who make decisions. Some writers have talked of ‘insider’ and ‘outsider’ perspectives on research.
Some researchers do not state their position, assuming that their work is ‘apolitical’ or ‘objective’. This is a position that is not often afforded to minority scholars working on issues that they are personally affected by or those working on gender or women’s rights. These researchers are regularly asked to account for their positions and to justify their potential biases or accused of ‘identity politics’.
The resources by Foreman (2016) and Ooms (2015) explore unspoken or hidden normative presences in global health through which agendas are set and power relations reinforced. Walt (2006) explores how researchers’ positions shape research agendas and explicitly engages with how North/South dynamics effect health systems research processes. Simon and Mosavel (2011) apply an ethical lens to the issue of positionality, drawing on research in South Africa, and suggest conceptual tools for organising work in this area.
Muhammad et al. (2014) explore how participatory research might provide a mechanism for better acknowledging and dealing with researcher positionality. MacGregor and Bloom (2016) suggest several ways deal with researcher positionality, for example, self-reflection, stakeholder consultations, community engagement and setting time aside in the research process to reflect on positionality.
Forman, L. (2016) The Ghost Is the Machine: How Can We Visibilize the Unseen Norms and Power of Global Health? Int J Health Policy Manag. 2016 Mar; 5(3): 197–199 In his recent commentary, Gorik Ooms argues that “denying that researchers, like all humans, have personal opinions … drives researchers’ personal opinion underground, turning global health science into […]
Navigating Between Stealth Advocacy and Unconscious Dogmatism: The Challenge of Researching the Norms, Politics and Power of Global Health
Ooms G. (2015) Navigating Between Stealth Advocacy and Unconscious Dogmatism: The Challenge of Researching the Norms, Politics and Power of Global Health, Int J Health Policy Manag. 2015 Oct; 4(10): 641–644 Global health research is essentially a normative undertaking: we use it to propose policies that ought to be implemented. To arrive at a normative […]
Walt et al (2008) ‘Doing’ health policy analysis: methodological and conceptual reflections and challenges, Health Policy Plan (2008) 23 (5) The case for undertaking policy analysis has been made by a number of scholars and practitioners. However, there has been much less attention given to how to do policy analysis, what research designs, theories or methods best […]
Reflections on Researcher Identity and Power: The Impact of Positionality on Community Based Participatory Research (CBPR) Processes and Outcomes
Muhammad M. et al (2014) Reflections on Researcher Identity and Power: The Impact of Positionality on Community Based Participatory Research (CBPR) Processes and Outcomes, Critical Sociology 1–20 The practice of community based participatory research (CBPR) has evolved over the past 20 years with the recognition that health equity is best achieved when academic researchers form […]
Simon C. and Mosavel M. (2011) Getting personal: Ethics and identity in global health research, Dev World Bioeth. 2011 Aug; 11(2): 82–92 ‘Researcher identity’ affects global health research in profound and complex ways. Anthropologists in particular have led the way in portraying the multiple, and sometimes tension-generating, identities that researchers ascribe to themselves, or have ascribed to […]
Health Systems Research in a Complex and Rapidly Changing Context: Ethical Implications of Major Health Systems Change at Scale
MacGregor, H. and Bloom, G. (2016) Health Systems Research in a Complex and Rapidly Changing Context: Ethical Implications of Major Health Systems Change at Scale, Dev World Bioeth. 2016 Dec; 16(3) This paper discusses health policy and systems research in complex and rapidly changing contexts. It focuses on ethical issues at stake for researchers working with […]