Dynamic relationships in community-based research
In this case, Ms Pisal and Ms Bandewar raise two important (and related) ethical challenges facing social science researchers, particularly those conducting community-based research. These are: evolving an appropriate concept of informed decision-making in community-based research, and negotiating the dynamic and multiple dimensions of field relationships.
Social science research, particularly anthropological research, is often relatively long term, contingent, and flexible. That is, its course (including choice and application of methods) is dependent on emergent findings. In this context, the concept of informed decision-making needs to be understood not as a one-time "essentially contractual encounter between strangers," but as an evolving, "negotiable, long-term" process (1)."
In the case description, although the researchers detail the information presented to potential participants, they do not elaborate on the kind of dialogue HP engaged in. What kinds of questions did potential participants pose? Was there an active discussion about their concerns (including concerns regarding their gurus' perspectives) and expectations? Would sustained dialogue and discussion have led to alternative solutions for the consent and participation dilemma faced by HP? For example, increasingly, researchers are forming community advisory groups (CAG) to assist in the development and implementation of research protocols. These groups may help anticipate and negotiate research-related risks and harms. Dialogue with potential participants and/or with a CAG may help identify additional modes of data collection (such as interviewing trans-gendered people in locations other than their homes), modes that may help one circumvent the dilemma faced by HP.
Krishnan, S. (2005). Dynamic relationships in community-based research. Indian Journal of Medical Ethics, 2(1).