A Case Study of Ethical Research Conduct in the Global South: Traversing the Distance between Research and Practice


Academic research and action-oriented practice are two distinct yet interrelated ways of engaging with the challenges of the anthropocene. This dichotomy influences and often structures organizations, funding mechanisms, scope of work, and also the practice of ethics. In the global south, this distinction is embedded with challenges emerging from knowledge transfers and finance flows, which makes the boundary between research and practice often yielding, if not fungible. A less understood aspect in this relation between research and practice is the role, relevance and impact of an ethics process that traverses the distance between the two. Research collaborations and partnerships that originate in the global north often take the form of practice in the global south, but continue to be governed by research-oriented policies. This includes their approach to responsible research and research ethics, which does not always translate well for practice. In this paper, the authors present the case of a higher educational institute situated in the global south that works in the domain of urban transformation through knowledge building as well as practice. This case brings to light the challenges faced by researchers and practitioners in translating principles and best practices of ethical conduct of research, to suit the requirements of action-oriented or client facing projects. This distinction asks for an ethics policy that can adapt to the various needs of such an institute, and ways of operationalizing it. The paper discusses this through the aspects of training, on the ground best practices, and general institutional process management.