SSAC Research Fellow, Dr Robyn Dwyer, recently presented at an important symposium on Research Ethics in Vulnerable Populations. The symposium examined and analysed ethical issues related to research in certain vulnerable populations, including women affected by intimate partner violence; prisoners; people who inject drugs; sex workers; and men who have sex with men. Sessions included one speaker on research in the Australian context and two speakers on research in resource-constrained countries. Participants included researchers working in Australian and international contexts, as well as people working for NGOs in resource-poor countries. Joining with other experienced researchers working in Australia, Fiji and Viet Nam, Robyn’s session discussed special ethical issues associated with researching illegal activity.
In her presentation, Robyn argued that the ethics of research among people engaged in illegal activity deserve serious consideration. She emphasised that researchers must remain mindful of the multiple effects and potential consequences their work may have on people’s lives. Such things, for example, as increasing participants’ risk of exposure to legal consequences or further instantiating stigmatising subject positions through the ways research questions are framed and findings reported.
The symposium was hosted by the Burnet Institute and Monash University’s Michael Kirby Centre for Public Health and Human Rights on behalf of the Australian Council For International Development (ACFID) Universities Network.