Complexity, Conflict and Conundrum of Research Ethics in Knowledge Co-Production Across Global North and Global South – When Values and Practices Travel


In 2022, we concluded the fieldwork for our study on alumni trajectories in planning education. The study was a part of Work Package-5 of the KNOW project which was funded by the Global Challenges Research Fund(GCRF) and led by University College London. The study was situated in 4-important locations of planning education in Tanzania, Thailand, Sri Lanka and India, to investigate the site-specific phenomena that influence the target groups’ engagement with values of equity &equality.

The presence of IIHS researchers in institutes in Tanzania, Thailand and Sri Lanka presented us with a dilemma. Conducting the study in these nations put us in a “contact zone, where since both the researcher and the researched subject came from the Global South (GS), different cultural backgrounds could meet without asymmetrical power relations. But as IIHS researchers, coming from the GS, working on a project funded by the Global North (GN), we ourselves were carrying multiple legacies of knowledge production, both southern and northern in characteristics, requiring us to revisit our understandings of how we thought about the south and north in our study. In particular, how the established practice of research ethics, historically emerging from the GN, was being played out in the GS, across both disciplines and sites. This situation allowed us to examine this through our encounters in these contact zones. In this paper, we reflect on the ethical challenges we faced by virtue of our geography and discipline, how we recognised them and what steps we took to rectify them.