Questioning Creative Practice Human Research Ethics

DOI: https://doi.org/10.33008/IJCMR.2022.07 | Issue 9 | Oct 2022

Catherine Gough-Brady (JMC Academy)


Abstract

One of my first tasks at the creative arts tertiary institution where I work was to examine the existing ethics processes and policy. As a result, I delved into the growing literature on creative practice research ethics to examine the ways in which academic ethics and creative practice research interact. A particular focus of this research became the human research ethics process, with its underlying principle of reduction of harm by the researcher on the individual researched person. This article examines that process and the tensions that arise between the underlying assumptions of university ethics, the realities of creative practice research, and existing industry moral codes. In particular, I explore whether ethics can be discipline specific, the effect of participant anonymity, using a rolling consent process, who the consent is between, and self-care of the researcher. I investigate these topics by reflecting on the experiences of researchers, including my experience. As a result of the discussion, I am led to the point where I challenge existing institutional research practices as pushing researchers into a colonial relationship with the researched.


The matters we think with

According the Donna Haraway “It matters what matters we use to think other matters with; it matters what stories we tell to tell other stories with” (2016, 12). I use Haraway here to highlight that the method of research used and the accompanying morals and values inform what we come to know and understand. Haraway borrowed this concept from social anthropologist Marilyn Strathern, and a similar idea has been expressed in various forms across a number of disciplines. Feminist theorist Karan Barad articulates this approach when she states that it “matters which cuts are enacted: different cuts enact different materialized becomings”(2007, 361). Sociologist Norman K Denzin expresses this idea as an embodied and time/spatial contextualisation of the researcher who is “historically and locally situated within the very processes being studied. A gendered, historical self is brought to this process” (2018, 15). Denzin challenges notions of positivist research when he states that there “is no possibility of theory- or value-free knowledge” (2018, 15). Decolonising scholar, Linda Tuhiwai Smith, notices these same power conditions, “research is not an innocent or distant academic exercise but an activity that has something at stake and that occurs in a set of political and social conditions” (2012, 5). Who we are, when we are, where we are, and what we do all inform how we know our world. What is also implied in this approach, for it is itself an approach, is a relational quality to research: the researcher has a relationship with their own identity, with the research, with their time, and people involved in the research. They even have a relationship with the equipment they work with in documenting that research. All these relationships bring with them underlying moral values and ways of knowing which can be seen as being situational. Some of these underlying morals can conflict, and a tension arises when industry-led ways of knowing (and morals) conflict with academic ways of knowing (and morals).


Given that the situated nature of the researcher ‘matters’, I will reveal my own identity. I am a creative practice researcher, and my primary practice has been broadcast documentaries. I have pale skin, I present as a woman, I live in Australia, I am middle-class, I am an artist, feminist, socialist, and posthumanist. As a creative practice researcher, I can see that I am situated at the margins of academic power, especially the moral power of academic institutions. I have spent most of my career at these margins of power, and I have noticed that centres of power rarely work in my favour. I realise that being privileged has assisted my choices as I have frequently opted out, rather than necessarily been excluded, from centres of power. As Trinh T Minh-ha points out, I have been able to move “between the center and the margin” and navigate pathways in both these spaces (1991, 17). I agree with Trinh that this co-existence in both the centre and margins, of both experiencing being othered and being at the centre of power, has influenced the way I perceive the world, including how I make moral decisions and how I create academic narratives.


Because I have spent most of my adult life as a documentary filmmaker, I tend to convey ideas using audio-visual means where I simultaneously simplify lives into linear narratives while at the same time intentionally complicating the viewer’s understanding of the world. This approach influences the construction of this paper which, rather than providing a singular argument, is a piece that listens to various opinions, including my own. The Gay’wu Group of Women talk about a narrative structure in which “not everyone is saying the exact same words. We are drawing a picture, collaboratively.” (Gay’Wu Group of Women 2019, 109) and “together we make it come alive.”(Gay’Wu Group of Women 2019, 110). In this paper I am attempting to bring this ethics discussion to life, not to resolve it.


I brought with me to academia a set of industry ethical values that I naively felt were solid and complete. Postgraduate study opened my eyes to the dire ethical situation in my industry, and in most of the creative industries. As a documentarian, my ethical focus was on those on the other side of my lens, and I adhered to that adage of ‘do no harm’ that Patricia Aufderheide, Peter Jaszi, and Mridu Chandra found is common among documentary filmmakers (2009). While spouting this adage, at the same time I looked for drama in people’s lives to help me create engaging stories, a seemingly contradictory positioning.


In the process of filmmaking, I did not consider myself, co-workers, or the fundamental organisational structure of my industry in this ethical debate. I began to read research in which the insecurity of work within the industry and the “unpredictability of project-based work” leads to situations where creative workers “experience considerable distress and anxiety" (Rowlands and Handy 2012, 658). I recognised this anxiety in myself. I also encountered research on the “negative impact of poor management practices particularly on the freelance staff” (van Raalte, Wallis, and Pekalski 2021, 5). I realised that I too am a manager who privileges the project over the workers. My argument here is that the creative industries cannot claim the moral high ground, we who work in it are blind to or complicit in so many normalised unethical practices. Industry-based ethics can, and should, be examined. Having said that, ethical ideas have been developing in the industries, and to ignore them is just as problematic as reproducing them wholesale. Sue Joseph, a journalist and academic, documented her unsuccessful process of seeking a profession-based human research ethics framework at the University of Technology Sydney (2014). She proposed that the professions have unique ethical and relational frameworks, and require their ethical positions to be measured against these unique frameworks, rather than against the fundamental of harm against the individual.


Profession or discipline-based ethics?

Joseph points out that while most ethics processes are about minimising harm that “it is often the remit of the investigative journalists to cause harm in the public's interest” (2014, 101). Public interest carries great ethical weight in journalism. The MEAA code of ethics (the code for journalists in Australia), includes a guidance clause which can be used to override all of the ethical statements in the code, and it reads “only substantial advancement of the public interest or risk of substantial harm to people allows any standard to be overridden“ (MEAA, np). For journalists, public interest or public harm overrides all other ethical or harm concerns. The conflict between this somewhat utilitarian approach and university ethics is clear, underlying university ethics is the Nuremberg Code and a reaction to Nazi medical experiments. University ethics derives from a code where harm to the individual is paramount. For Joseph, and the journalism profession, harm to the individual can be considered lesser than harm to a group of people. While the journalist’s code might seem to be exactly the ethical positioning that the Nuremberg Code was trying to avoid, the nature of the harm needs to be considered: the harm that journalism causes is rarely harm that directly results in death.


For instance, causing ‘reputational harm’ to an individual (or organisation) in the process of exposing physical harm they are perpetrating on others can be justified under the MEAA code, and journalism has often caused, and exposed, this very harm. Imagine if we allowed sexual predation by clerics to go unreported because of the reputational harm it might cause the priests or the church? Or, the treatment of animals by abattoirs to go unreported because of the harm to live exports? In journalism, harm caused can lead to financial, mental and physical harm of the individual or organisation, but, ethical journalists are not experimenting on humans in a way that can kill them in the process. It may feel extreme to compare journalism to Nazi medical experiments, I do this because those medical experiments form the underlying reason for the moral code that universities use. Sue Joseph has a point that university ethics committees should consider the harm that a profession or discipline causes and create ethics policies accordingly, as they can be so different. This is not just about balancing risks and benefits in a high-risk ethics projects. To recognise that ethics is situational and particular to disciplines is to challenge that individual harm is the fundamental measure of ethical conduct by all researchers. Putting reporting in the same ethical basket as medical experiments ignores that the potential harm caused is dependent upon the profession, or more precisely, the epistemological position of the researcher. To return to Haraway, “It matters what matters we use” (12 2016), these influence what we do, how we do it, and the ethics that is needed in that situation.


The fundamentals of Joseph’s challenge to universality of ethical measures can be seen in the work of cognitive scientist Francisco Varela. He suggests that there “cannot be any social order or moral order that is objectively desirable" (1999, 64). Varela promotes the idea that ethical behaviour is “in harmony with the texture of the situation at hand, not in accordance with a set of rules or procedures” (1999, 31). A university system, and even an industry system, is unlikely to ever be agile enough to do away with ethical codes and become entirely situational, but it can be agile enough to adapt codes to particular situations or disciplines and recognise that ethical frameworks and the type of harm that can be expected can be affected by the situation. That these situations will be influenced by the epistemology of the researcher: are they knowing their world through intrusive medical experiments or are they knowing it through talking to people? Both are legitimate ways of knowing, but they are different enough that to conflate the ethics of the situation can result in unethical unintended consequences. For instance, the existing assumptions about harm reduction, such as the need for anonymity in medical experiments, may in fact have a harmful effect when used in creative practice research.


Author-owner

The university preference for anonymity of research subjects as a means of reducing harm is not derived from the Nuremberg Code. At some point it has become the norm. Feminist and decolonising researchers are challenging the “a priori association of anonymity with protection, and naming with harm” (Moore 2012, 332). Niamh Moore states that:


For much of history anonymity did not protect the vulnerable, but excluded women and others from authorship and ownership of their own words, erasing them from the archive, even from history, and in the process creating vulnerability through rendering people nameless. (Moore 2012, 332)


Linda Tuhiwai Smith notes that the idea of the researcher as owner whose name is associated with the research and the ‘subject’ who remains anonymous creates disparity where the subject’s “knowledge has been rendered entirely invisible” (Smith 2012, 86). Anonymity of the subjects in a research project maintains power relations in which the researcher becomes the owner of the subject’s knowledge. The Gay’wu Group of Women clearly state to the reader in their work on song spirals: “You can talk about it, but don’t think you can become the authority on it” (2019, xxv). This is in reaction to years of being researched and finding that they, and their knowledge, had been misrepresented and an outsider researcher has become the ‘authority’.


Lily Hibberd explores the interface of university ethics with her own visual arts practice. For several years, and prior to becoming a researcher, she had been working on a collaborative arts project with women who were inmates of the child welfare institution known by various names, including Parramatta Girls Home. Hibberd collaborates with those who are part of the research and she feels “it was vital to find a means to redress the imbalance of my status as an established practitioner and to give support and primary consideration to the women’s need for acknowledgement and identity” (2019, 71). For Hibberd sharing acknowledgement and ownership is important because to avoid this obligation “would reinforce the subjugation of the women as material for ‘experts’ to examine” and this would highlight “the boundaries of exclusion and marginalisation that these women already face" (2019, 73).


Hibberd developed a relationship with the women from Parramatta Girls Home over a number of years where these women are “primary authors in the production of both art and knowledge emerging from the project” (2019, 71). This relationship was established prior to her needing to apply for human research ethics approval for further stages of the project. Hibberd noticed that her established arts industry approach ran counter to university ethics in which these women became ‘subjects’ or ‘interviewees’. If she treated the women as ‘co-authors’ she found that this act devalued her research in the eyes of the university where the current “structure maintains the hierarchy of the institution over the research subject” by preferencing the single academic author (2019, 82). Coupled with this, Hibberd found that her existing ethical practice was in conflict with the ethical practice of the university where she was being asked to be a researcher who is “set apart from the collaborators” (2019, 82). Hibberd challenges the asymmetrical quality of the power relations established in academic research and notions of independence through a discredited notion of objectivity (Denzin 2018, 15). She found that the underlying principle of do no harm expressed through anonymity of her participants, was having the opposite effect than intended, it was re-enforcing the idea these women had no control over their lives. It was silencing them.


Those who write about the clash of creative practice ethics and university ethics are often collaborating with people who exist on Trinh’s ‘margins’ of power. This is because for these creative practice researchers, like Hibberd, the ethical clash is most noticeable. In their work at Re•Vision, Carla Rice, Andrea LaMarre and Roxanne Mykitiuk fond that “protocols regarding anonymity and confidentiality contravene participants’ desire for recognition as artists” (2018, 258). They collaborated with people, some of them artists, who have histories of being hidden away due to their disabilities. Rice, LaMarre and Mykitiuk used a ‘cripping ethics’ framework that includes “opening the field of decision-making in research” (2018, 258), and like Hibberd, they found themselves wanting to share knowledge and power in a way that contravened university ethical approaches that require participant anonymity and researcher independence. Requiring participant anonymity formed a silencing and harmful effect, rather than harm reduction, as the participants wanted to be able to claim and be recognised for their creative input. For Rice, LaMarre and Mykitiuk their ethics approach became embodied with “visible and invisible mind-body attributes” that pushed against ableist preconceptions. They sought to become entangled, in respectful ways, with the participants involved in the research, just as the participants sought to also become entangled. Disabled people have extensive experience of a form of discrimination where they are told what is best for them rather than heard, and an ethical approach that set the researcher apart as an authority could itself be unethical. As Smith notes “To be able to share, to have something worth sharing, gives dignity to the giver” (2012, 110). Enforced anonymity and disentangled researchers can be an undignified response to the participant’s willingness to share. Allowing entanglement in research opens a set of complex ethical relationships and creative practice researchers that I explore further below.


The Individual?

Researcher Jacqueline Lovell developed interesting ways of navigating anonymity when she created videos with people experiencing multiple levels of discrimination. She noticed that the participants had different attitudes to anonymity. Some participants shared their resulting videos on social media, some only wanted those in their close friendship circle to be able to see the works, and one person wanted to remain completely anonymous. Lovell rejected the idea of “one-size-fits-all approach” instead, she created agreements with the participants where the document catered for “the wishes of each participating member” (Lovell and Akhurst 2018, 377). By doing this she was asking the participants what they wanted, rather than imposing upon them an abstracted notion of harm. The ethics were being tailored to suit the different needs of the participants. While university ethics has an underpinning of harm reduction on the individual, the nature of this harm reduction is rarely tailored to the individual, instead a single option for all participants is generally imposed upon each of them. Ethically, they are in fact treated as a de facto group. Creative practice researchers are seeking to break down this one size fits all approach, and often that is helped by them being entangled in the research in a way where they can enter into meta-dialogues with participants, individually or as a group, about matters such as ethics.


Decolonising researchers challenge the very idea of the ‘individual’ in relation to ethics. Smith states that “Indigenous groups argue that legal definitions of ethics are framed in ways which contain the Western sense of the individual and of individualized property” (2012, 123). The pervading idea of the individual means that, despite each individual being treated as part of a de facto group, each individual must sign for themselves, rather than the community communally agree for the community. Decolonising researchers propose that consent may be sought from a community rather than from each of the individuals in that community.


The idea of who consents, and what they consent to, can be open to the particular situation of the research. Does consent look different for each participant? Is consent given by individuals or by the group?


Entangled researchers

To continue with ideas raised by decolonising studies, in reaction to perception that researchers are “simply intent on taking or ‘stealing’ knowledge in a non-reciprocal and often underhanded way” (2012, 178) Smith identifies a set of questions a cross-cultural researcher should ask themselves, which includes “To whom is the researcher accountable?” (2012, 175). Being accountable to someone, and not harming them, are different. Being accountable opens a larger set of ethical questions than the narrow scope of harm, being accountable is part of being entangled.


Being accountable to participants, as well as to academia and its institutions, includes the nature of how the researcher will relate to participants. As Rosi Braidotti points out: "Neither unitary, nor autonomous, subjects are embodied and embedded, relational and affective collaborative entities, activated by relational ethics" (2019, 46). The collaborative process and sharing of authorship recognises the knowledge of the participants, and it recognises that the researcher does not need to control this knowledge. The researcher can be implicated and entangled in their research and answerable to those who are collaborating on the research. What this ethical position also assumes is that the relationship between the participant and the research is via the researcher, not via the abstracted notion of the project. While this seems like a semantic shift, it in fact reveals a seismic shift in how the ethics functions. Smith explains that for Māori “Consent is not so much given for a project or specific set of questions, but for a person, for their credibility” (2012, 137), this means that trust can be formed between the people, not the participant and the project. Just as anonymity of the participants can be challenged in ethical research, a sense of being set apart or a disembodiment researcher is also challenged by making the researcher, as a person, central to the ethical relationship.


While this article is focused on human research, this practice of inclusivity can extend to the non-human. The Gay’wu Group of Women require “Country acknowledged as the lead author, rather than just people, to show the way Country shapes, teaches and guides us” (2019, 170). Here the idea of the independent researcher is entangled in the net of not only participants, but the world itself. The researcher is, as Denzin claims, ‘situated’, and being ethical is frequently about being actively aware of the situatedness. Inspired by the Gay’wu approach, I wrote a paper in which the lead author is a river system (Dungala-Baaka River and Gough-Brady 2021). But I admit that my awareness is emerging, and this is evidenced by how I frequently talk about giving the river first authorship, as if it is mine to give. It could even be argued that my lack of deep understanding of the underlying principals makes this act a form of appropriation rather than genuine acknowledgement. What this suggest is that ethics is not a complete act, but often it is an ever evolving (often social) interaction. Ethical researchers are constantly becoming aware of the potentially unethical norms, and approaches, that they use. Researchers are beings entangled in this fluid space of enquiry.


Rolling consent and changing relationships

The current ethics system regularly requires that consent is a binary that can be given once, or withdrawn once. This certitude relies upon there being a project that is predetermined at the outset. As autoethnographers Carolyn Ellis and Arthur Bochner point out, "many unanticipated questions and ethical dilemmas emerge only when we are deep into the research process, engaged in day-to-day interactions and in the process of forming relationships with participants" (2016, 140). With creative practice projects there are not always pre-determined outcomes where the likely effect on the participants is known in advance. Added to this is that participants are complex beings who can change, and their world can change. In recognition of this, filmmaker and academic, Steve Thomas, operates “on the basis that consent is a continuous process of negotiation” (2019, 55). This establishes consent as a negotiation that occurs throughout the lifecycle of the research. It allows for discussion over what can be included in the research and for the participant to set and change boundaries of what is permissible. It recognises that the participant’s understanding of the research (and the researcher’s understanding) will change and develop over the course of the project. Instead of only offering the option to withdraw, with rolling consent the participant has the right to renegotiate how that consent will operate. Underpinning the idea of rolling consent is that participants and researchers have “a set of shifting identities” (Denzin 2018, 15) that change over time. Not only is the creative practice project open to change, but the people involved and how they relate will change.


It should be added that the identity of the researcher, or the participant, does not necessarily form a unified self, different aspects of the self can become dominant at various times in the research relationships. Thomas notes that “I am revealed from the beginning [of the film], not just as the filmmaker and interviewer (who will soon also be identified as the narrator), but also as a participant in the film" (2019, 57). Researchers and participants take on a variety of roles that shift and change through the process of the research. In their research project on disability arts, Rice, LaMarre and Mykitiuk created an ethics process that is open to that change: “Every time participants alerted us to the discomfort they felt with participating in research as prescribed, we learnt new ways of approaching the ethics process” (2018, 265) thus allowing a space in which participants can have some influence over how “they would prefer to imagine themselves” (2018, 260). Jacqueline Lovell also used rolling ethics in her research on the social enterprise organisation dp, where she was “co-developing new methods that would facilitate equitable and meaningful engagement” (Lovell and Akhurst 2018, 382).


The bedrock of these shifting relationships is that knowledge sharing in creative practice research projects is a two-way relationship. Thomas noticed “the camera is still rolling as Jim [a customer] enters and Mustafa turns to me (I am off camera) and says: ‘Do you want to cut for a bit, I’ll just ask for permission’” (2019, 57). The participant had become aware of the researcher’s ethics just as the researcher adapts their ethics to one which accommodates the participant. The identities of each shift as they accommodate the other and the relationship develops as knowledge sharing grows. An ethical process can accommodate the fluidity of the relational nature of these ethics. The growing awareness, and even friendship, between the researcher and researched can create greater understanding but also complicate the ethics of the relationship.


The reverse can also be true, friends can become participants. Nicole Brown uses participatory research methods and she has spoken about how her arts-based projects can emerge from pre-existing relationships rather than be set endeavours with clear start-dates: “Ethics are really difficult to navigate with this type of work because most often you are already half way into a project when you realise you’ve actually got one” (2021b, 37 mins). Smith talks about her own transitioning from being a friend to an ‘insider’ researcher:


What really struck me when I visited the women in their homes as a researcher, having done so on many previous occasions as a mother, were the formal cultural practices which the women observed. (2012, 139)


The shift in behaviour occurs in both the researcher and the participants in response to the formality of the relationship that is encompassed by the research methods, such as an interview. There is a recognition by both parties that the researching dynamic is different than the friend or colleague dynamic, in part because the participant (and researcher) is becoming self-reflexive as a result of the research. In Smith’s case the women she researched cleaned their houses, took extra care with the clothing their children wore. They performed a self that best reflected how they wanted to be documented. While Nicole Brown talks about projects emerging and then reaching a point where she recognises them, there is always that point at which the ethical and social relationship will shift as it becomes one enmeshed in research. Smith reflects that is no one right way to be an insider researcher, but “insiders have to live with the consequences of their processes on a day-to-day basis for ever more, and so do their families and communities” (2012, 138). The consequences of any actions taken by the researcher are greater for insiders. Navigating the research when entangled has the potential to lead to an increased awareness of those consequences for the participants.


Effect of the research?

Researchers can be affected by their research. Filmmaker and researcher Kym Melzer found that her time spent with participants was distressing her: “After this interview, I climbed into my car and sobbed uncontrollably. It had required considerable work to supress my emotional response to the story Liz recounted” (Melzer 2019, 44). Underlying Melzer’s distress is a realisation that her research may not benefit the people being researched: “I was acutely aware of the inadequacy of my films to change lives in a positive way. My aims and hopes for the creative project seemed naïve and empty” (Melzer 2019, 44). Melzer was concerned about the harm she was doing by asking an interviewee to discuss their traumatic experiences, and if this interview was justified.


Nicole Brown has noticed that creative practice researchers, like participatory researchers, tend to be interested in political agendas, and notions of creating positive change (2021a). Creating positive change can establish a focus on social change rather than change for the individuals involved. This leads to a tension in creative practice research where the primary aim might not be to be of benefit to the individuals who are the participants (think of the journalists discussed earlier). As Denzin points out, research can turn “researchers and subjects into co-participants in a common moral project” where that morality is seen as “civic” rather than individual in nature (2018, 18).


The participant, Liz, who Melzer reacted strongly to, had stated the ‘outcome’ she wanted for the research as being “policy change, not sympathy” (2019, 44). Here, the participant saw the outcome of the research as being civic rather than personal. That places pressure on Melzer, over and above her emotional reaction to Liz’s story. Liz is staking a claim for an expected outcome of the research that is most likely not an outcome in the consent form, instead it is spoken, and represents attitudes of the participants and their needs. Part of the ethical process is navigating those spoken desires and reasons for participation, that may not be part of written agreements. Melzer questions if she can achieve Liz’s agenda, which she most likely cannot. This adds to Melzer’s stress levels as she questions if she has the right to conduct the research if she cannot meet Liz’s desired outcome. Participants use researchers for their agendas as much as researchers use participants, and ethically it is important to manage those expectations, on both sides.


Melzer’s reaction reminds us that the researcher is affected. In Smith’s set of questions that a researcher should ask themselves, the final question is “What processes are in place to support the research, the researched and the researcher?” (2012, 175). Smith recognises that all parties will need support at various points in the research process. Current systems are set up for participants in interviews to be able to opt out of questions or change their mind about being involved in the research. What systems are in place for the researcher to opt out, without it having dire consequences on their study or career? Geographer Christine Eriksen discusses this very problem with regards to her research on the effect bushfires in Australia. She notes that there is a fear by the researcher that if they disclose “research-related emotional distress to an employer” that the employer “has the power to prevent the researcher from continuing work on a particular project” (2017, 275-6). Eriksen points out that geography researchers have little knowledge (and the same can be said of creative practice researchers) of how to recognise vicarious trauma, and what can done to address it. Eriksen found that her “journey towards recognising vicarious trauma amongst disaster researchers started with an observation of a growing personal inability to manage seemingly inconsequential tasks in professional and private life” (2017, 275). While some institutions are becoming aware of the need to support researchers and the importance of self-care, it is often ad hoc and by no means universal. Melzer’s and Eriksen’s work is part of a growing body of literature where researchers talk about their experiences of vicarious trauma. This trauma and stress can be brought about by the stories being experienced as well as by the expectations of the participants, and desires by the researcher, that civic change will result from participating.


Conclusion

Industry ethical codes have been developed over several years and can differ markedly from university ethical codes. Neither code is necessarily right nor wrong, both industry and academic codes have flaws, blind spots, and spaces where they create unintended harm. By seeing ethics as being inclusive of situational elements, it can become flexible to the needs of the participants and the researcher. Ethics can be polyphonic and open to the fluidity of the project, the knowledge gathered, and those involved. Underlying systemic biases and norms can be challenged to create fairer and more respectful research practices. Ethical practices need not be the same for all researchers, and universities could put practices in place that recognise this.


Through this process some core ideas about the way we practice research are challenged, for instance that individual harm is the fundamental of the ethical relationship. In part, this is about how we treat participants: as unique individuals, a group of individuals or even a community. Recognising multiple levels of accountability in ethical relationships can widen the scope beyond harm, and behaving ethically can include a range of respectful behaviour, including the sharing of authorship. This has the effect of challenging the right of the researcher to claim sole authorship, to be considered separate from the researched, and that the participants remain anonymous. A further effect is that it raises the ethical problem that the university system encourages colonisation of participants through auditing academic research via a preference for the sole and first author. Underlying this discussion of being an ethical researcher is that universities, as institutions, should rethink how they document and value the work of researchers given their aim is to encourage ethical human research practices.


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