This post is in the Ethics category

The ethical conduct of this research is of critical consideration as it deals with whole lives and lives that are known to the researcher and subject to ongoing relationships – family, friends and colleagues. Ellis (2007, p. 5) indicates that the so called “relational” ethics of ethnography and autoethnography often do not fall under the jurisdiction and experience of university ethics committees as they tend to assume that research is being conducted on or with individuals who are unknown to the researcher, with whom there is no past or future relationship and who do not run the risk of identification by association. A number of related points are discussed by Adams in his Review of Narrative Ethics (Adams, 2008) alongside issues around the use of “retold” narrative, creative non-fiction and the privileging of the author’s voice. Therefore ethical conduct falls into two principle areas, the University’s requirements for informed consent, privacy, protection and security, and the researcher’s own moral obligations to individuals with whom they engage in life-sharing.

Ethical Clearance documentation (QCM/18/06/HREC) was submitted to the Griffith University Ethics committee on October 31, 2006 to cover recruitment procedures, questionnaires, interviews, video recording and self-observation methods that involved identification of the subjects by the researcher and anonymity in reporting. Given the close observation of behaviour, examination of psychological traits and the use of video tape, it is not surprising that a number of ethical concerns were addressed and dealt with through this process. In the initial submission an emphasis was placed on the use of a large-scale anonymous survey process to establish statistical baselines for autistic traits within the Conservatorium community, and ethical clearance was also obtained for this phase of the research. This survey was abandoned in large-scale format, partly due to the sensitive nature of the subject matter and assumed difficulty in recruiting participants, and the necessity of a level of deceit and disclosure required to counter public stigma. In addition, a growing understanding that a personally focused study would yield a more valuable result prompted adaptations to the research proposals. The following sections reflect the amended documentation approved by the university ethics committee and discuss some of the actual issues that arose around the two dimensions of ethical responsibility mentioned above.

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