Engaging Communities & Ethics in Context: The Process of Initiating Ethnobiological Fieldwork, Part I

Session Type: 
Session Date and Time: 
Thursday, 11 May, 2017 - 10:30 to 12:00
Biodiversity Center, B106
Session Organizer(s): 
Armando Medinaceli - Ethics Committee, Latin American Society of Ethnobiology - manduche@gmail.com
Erendira Cano - Ethics Committee, Latin American Society of Ethnobiology

The intention of this session is to discuss and reflect on the ways researchers are engaging with communities before, during and after data collection. Ethnobiology and anthropology, among other disciplines, deal directly with communities. But fieldwork does not start, or should not start, with the arrival at field sites for data collection. It is imperative that we take a first step before the “first step” of data collection to obtain permission/consent. 

Drawn from current discussions about ethics in ethnobiological research and our direct experience in collaboration with communities, this session will discuss how researchers are currently obtaining permission and consent to work with communities. We will aim to answer questions such as: 

  • Are we following the local customs and traditions of the communities in which we are working?
  • Are we following regulations imposed by our institutions (i.e., IRB)? Are those enough?
  • What other types of regulations do we follow, if any (national/international laws and regulations, codes of ethics, etc.)?
  • How are we portraying our ethics in our research, presentations and publications?
  • Should we do more?

This session will present several examples from around the world of how to “start” field work with communities. We invite discussion and reflection on the different ways of interacting with collaborators/informants, and how to portray this process in the final products of research.

Within the Latin American Society of Ethnobiology’s Ethics committee (SOLAE-EC), we are encouraging members of SOLAE and other ethnobiology researchers to make a reference within their work (i.e., methods section in a publication) of what ethical, legal or consuetudinary regulations the researchers are following. Making this explicit respects the people we collaborate with, adds value to the research, and also encourages good and ethical research practices.