Guest contributor Bibek Dahal, from the Kathmandu University School of Education, Nepal, offers an introduction to his new open-access article Research Ethics: A Perspective of South Asian Context.
It was the day of November 2015, when I was in Jakarta, the capital city of Indonesia to share my research findings in an international conference on science, mathematics, engineering and technology education: ‘Cultural challenges and opportunities in a globalizing world.’ I was getting more excited to share my research findings with the participants at the conference. Many research scholars from different corners of the world were there to share their research findings and so am I.
The second day of the conference was quite shaky for me as it was the day of my presentation on ‘Teachers’ feedback strategies in students’ mathematical activities and their achievement’. The presentation went far better than what I had expected, followed by discussion session. Some participants asked me questions related to my research methodology and findings. I got ample opportunity to learn new ideas and information such as the different layers of teachers’ feedback strategies and modes of providing feedback to the students, which helped me to develop a paper.
During the tea break, one of the participants of my presentation, a professor from Australian University asked me “Bibek, did you feel any doubt on your research participants whether they are providing the ‘real’ information or not while collecting the data in your study?” Answering to this question, I shared with him how I designed my study and took interviews to collect information from my participants in an environment where they feel safe and comfortable. After listening to my answer, he replied “very good! You know, to get the ‘real’ information sometimes the research participants are more important than a researcher in participatory research where ethics matter most”.
What is the ‘real’ information? What can be defined which information is real and which one is fake? Does ethical consideration assure that the information is real? These questions always motivated me to deepen on the research ethics day by day. As a result, I started to review different literature related to research ethics and found its diverse aspects and practices such as western and non-western, euro-western and indigenous and decolonizing as well. Finally, after reading the book Research ethics in the real world: Euro-western and indigenous perspectives written by Dr. Helen Kara, I was able to frame the article “Research Ethics: A Perspective of South Asian Context”. Though reviewed literature have not explored the South Asian Perspectives mostly derived by the Eastern Philosophies, they have explicitly discussed about indigenous perspectives of research ethics. However, the article “Research Ethics: A Perspective of South Asian Context” is addressing the aspects of research ethics that derived from the eastern philosophies – Vedic and Buddhist. Most importantly, it is raising the questions of what information could be real in the context of South Asia? What are the basic principles of research ethics that need to be considered by the researchers in the context of South Asia? Does the research context have such privilege power to define what is (un)ethical actions? These are the questions which addressed in this article.