Re: Ethics and Contract research

Adrian Tanner (atanner@MORGAN.UCS.MUN.CA)
Mon, 6 Mar 1995 15:30:44 -0330

On Sun, 5 Mar 1995, Marlena Baber (ANT) wrote:

> One topic of discussion in the Legal & Ethical Aspects of Applied
> Anthro Course at USF (Tampa) is contract research. I am soliciting input
> from those of you who do contract research to answer some of the
> following questions:
> 1. What kinds of ethical issues have you confronted in your
> contracted research work?
> 2. Have you experienced conflicts of codes on multidisciplinary
> teams? How have you dealt with them?
> 3. Which of these areas do you think hold the most potential for
> ethical dilemmas - educational reform, SIA and risk perception, work with
> business/corporate entities, mental health (from the organizational and
> policy point of view), public administration. What are other areas?
> We discuss the issues in a round table and think that input from those of
> you already "out there" would give depth to our comments and provide
> perspective. If you are doing contract research, we would appreciate
> your help. Any thoughts you have on the current state of the ethics
> discussion in anthropology would also be appreciated. Is a code
> necessary? Are sanctions needed to deal with violations of the codes?
> Thank you. Ginger Baber

In Canada, as, I guess is the case elsewhere (?), Environmental and Social
Impact Assessemnt of major development projects is the responsibility of
the proponent. Moreover, the people the proponents hire to do this work
are often broad-ranging consulting companies, often tied in with
engineering firms who my well bid on building the projects. Thus the two
agencies most closely involved in conducting studies of the impact of
projects have a vested interest in finding that the impact is negligible
and can be mitigated, allowing the project to procede.

In my view this not only has the appearence of biased research, but the
results of this 'research' generally support this view. In the examples I
have seen 'public interest groups' are supposed to be able to counter the
well-funded advantages of this unsavory cabal. In my view the whole set-up
was designed merely to offer enviromentalists the pretence of a real
objective study, while keeping the interests of the proponents well
protected. Anyone involved is in ethical quicksand.

Adrian Tanner