Top 10 Ethical Considerations for Students Working with Community-Based Natural Resource Management Organizations


  1. Involvement — Who should be involved as participants in the research process?
    • Who has the substantive knowledge you need for the research?
    • What are the risks and rewards of involvement?
  2. Power — Who has the power in the relationship?
    • Who is benefiting from the research?
    • Will some community members benefit at the expense of others?
    • Who decides the research questions and process?
  3. Affect — Who will be affected and how will they be affected by the research process and findings?
  4. Consent — Do participants fully understand the intent of the research and how the information will be used?
    • Be mindful of literacy levels and language differences.
    • Explain your project fully and honestly up front.
  5. Confidentiality — How are participants protected against risks of participation?
    In small communities, direct quotations can be identifying even though the person's name is withheld.
  6. Conflict — Researchers may inadvertently cause conflict between community members.
    • Communities consist of a diverse set of individuals, stakeholders, and interests who all have different perspectives and opinions.
    • Knowing the spectrum of interests you are working with will allow you to better navigate the social dynamics of the community in which you are working.
  7. Accountability — How will the research be given back to the community?
    • Community members expect some benefit when a researcher enters their community.
    • Community members may fear that sensitive data will stigmatize their community.
    • How the research benefits the community must be determined by the community, not the researcher.
  8. Access — How will your research findings be released?
    • Communities must have access to the research results.
    • Most small rural communities don't have access to academic articles and journals so other methods of dissemination must be used
  9. Research Fatigue — Has the community you are working in been overstudied?
    • Is there a risk of the community becoming overwhelmed by too many students?
    • Are community members free to choose or reject student involvement?
  10. Participation — Just because you are living in the community and observing life, doesn't mean you are conducting community-based participatory research
    • Have you considered each of topics 1 - 9?
    • How have you planned to address the ethical implications listed above?

Ethics in Community-Based Research
Flicker, Sarah "Ethical Dilemmas in CBPR"
Maritime Center of Excellence for Women's Health
Research Ethics & Environmental Health
Walker, Beverly "Action Research in Management-Ethical Dilemmas"
Wilmsen, Carl. "Perils on the Road to Participatory Research in Community Forestry."