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Durham University

Policy, Professions and Communities Research Group


Publication details for Professor Sarah Banks

Banks, Sarah, Armstrong, Andrea, Carter, Kathleen, Graham, Helen, Hayward, Peter, Henry, Alex, Holland, Tessa, Holmes, Claire, Lee, Amelia, McNulty, Ann, Moore, Niamh, Nayling, Nigel, Stokoe, Ann & Strachan, Aileen (2013). Everyday ethics in community-based participatory research. Contemporary Social Science: Journal of the Academy of Social Sciences 8(3): 263-277.

Author(s) from Durham


This article explores a range of ethical issues that arise in community-based participatory research (CBPR), drawing on literature and examples from practice. The experience of CBPR practitioners adds further weight to the growing critique by many other social researchers of regulatory approaches to research ethics (which focus on rule following in accordance with research governance frameworks, codes of conduct and ethics review procedures). Yet, whilst many of the ethical challenges in CBPR are common to social research generally (informed consent, anonymity, issues of ownership of data and findings), the dynamic, complex and value-based nature of CBPR gives them particular prominence. There are also specific issues relating to the ethics of partnership working, collaboration, blurring of boundaries between researchers and researched, community rights, community conflict and democratic participation that are more frequently encountered in CBPR. Four practice examples are used to demonstrate this argument. These are taken from a young women's community allotment, a community organisation researching poverty, a youth peer research project and a museum-based digital storytelling project. The article concludes that current institutional ethical codes, guidelines and ethical review procedures are not particularly well-suited to CBPR, in that they adopt principle-based and regulatory approaches to ethics; whereas character- and relationship-based approaches to ethics are also very important in CBPR, which is adopted by many researchers with a strong value commitment to social justice.