Responsibly sourced wool (Confidentiality and ethics)
To do responsible research in accordance to the rules of the university and human decency, efforts were made to ensure that the ethnography took into account as many ethical aspects as possible. This will be discussed in four parts, which are the responsibility of the researcher to the research institution, to the participants, the gatekeeper and to the researcher’s self.
To ensure that the researcher takes into account the need to protect the institution. The university has set in place an ethics review whereby the researcher needs to apply for research ethics approval from the school. Once approval was granted, only then was the research started. The researcher also made effort to be as professional as possible during the research so that it would not reflect negatively on the university.
To ensure that the participants were protected. It was part of the research strategy to first gain free prior informed consent (FPIC) from the participants. FPIC is where enough information about the research is shared with the participants in a way that they understand before they decide to participate, or not (ESRC 2015, BSA 2017). This was collected through the use of a participant information sheet and a consent form (Appendix 2). The participant information sheet explained the general purpose of the research, items that would be observed, methods used to collect information and steps taken to protect confidentiality. The participants were informed that if they did not want to be in the study, they may decline to sign the consent form. The use of FPIC subscribes to the belief that it is a researcher’s responsibility to protect their participant’s autonomous rights, to ensure their safety in all ways possible during the research sessions (Faden et al. 1986, BSA 2017). The consent forms with the signatures will not be shared in accordance with the promise to the knitters that they would remain anonymous.
Other ways in which the researcher has responsibility towards the participants is to show that their participation is recognised (Faden et al. 1986, St. John 2015). This is done by offering to share the final result of the research, which in this case is this very essay. As a nod to responsibility towards the participant, the researcher would like to point out that one way of looking out for the well-being of the participant (BSA 2017) is to minimize disturbances to their daily lives (St. John 2015). This increases the value of choosing to do an ethnography for this research as it answers the questions being asked while introducing as little disruption as possible into the lives of the participants.