What is the relationship of knowledge, power and ethics in social work research In Power and knowledge by John Gaventa and Andrea Cornwall, 2001, presented the early meaning of the relationship between power and knowledge which draws from other researches that it tends to be separated with each other, they those who are in high position that represents structures, organizations, and experts have power. On the other hand, we those who are in low position of society such as grassroots, the oppressed and marginalized did not have power.
Participatory research bridges that gap. Chapter 6 of this book explores the relationships by providing different strategies in which power and knowledge were analyzed by several researchers such as Lukes, Foucault and others. Afterwards, the early meaning of power and knowledge was found out to be inextricably intertwined. Lastly, the author presented the modern uses of participatory research that upholds the equality in society. In Research Methods for Social Workers by Bonnie Yegidis and Robert Weinbach, 2006, Chapter 2, describes numerous unethical past research that was conducted for the knowledge generation of researchers.
This research was often not justifiable due to harmful effects on the life of research participants. On the contrary, past research did help current researchers to create new policies to ensure the protection and safety of research participants well-being as well as people in the society. I agree with the authors viewpoint that knowledge and power are inextricably intertwined because those are the foundation that contributes in our life and especially in conducting social work research. First, knowledge guides us on what we know from the theories we learn in school, our own experiences, family and others and the skills we develop. Secondly, knowledge empowers us to participate in the society. As noted by Hayward, 199821, power is the capacity to participate effectively in shaping the social limits that define what is possible.
Furthermore, the author presented the participatory action research, which is one of the research types in social work. The author states that the ultimate goal of this research is not simply to communicate new voices or categories, but the radical transformation of social reality and improvement in the lives of the people involved. Solutions are viewed as processes through which subjects become social actors, participation, by means of grassroots mobilizations, in actions intended to transform society. (Selener, 199719-21). Conducting participatory research is not self serving but it is truly empowering people and communities because of several reasons. First, participatory action research allowed us to implement the knowledge that we have by collectively involved people in the community to participate especially the marginalized, grassroots and oppressed sectors of society. Secondly, it allows us by letting them understand about the study, aim of the study, who will benefit the study and its expectation.
Lastly, we guarantee that the study is to promote change or transformation in their lives. Similarly, I agree with the author in research methods for social workers that in conducting research, they often encounter ethical dilemmas and constrains. By definition Ethics is rules of behavior based on ideas about what is morally good or bad (Merriam-Webster, 2013). The unethical cases that were presented in the book guided us to avoid pitfall in conducting research. Social work researcher is bound by ethical standards.
First and foremost, the research proposal should be reviewed by a research team or committee, which commonly called human subjects review team, ethics committee and approved it prior implementing. Second, the informed consent, which researchers should inform all research participants about what the participation is all about, purpose of the study, who benefits the study and other pertinent information. Additionally, the participants must give permission to researchers that they are voluntarily and willingly participate in the study by a written consent form. In the same way, we are also inculcating them the principle of social work, value of self-determination, which supports an individual right to make decisions that affects their life and welfare. The informed consent was designed to protect the participants right, the right to participate or not. Furthermore, it is also serves as a legal protection for the researchers when needed in the future. In contrast, if the participants could not sign due to reason that could not write and others but verbally expressed to participate, the researcher can record the voice that participants are voluntarily permitted to participate in the study. Likewise, in the case of minor or people who are severe mentally sick, parents and/or guardian can give permission on behalf of the participants.
Anonymity and confidentiality must adhere by researchers to protect the identity of research participants. The researchers usually use pseudonyms and making sure the data collected are kept safe and secured. On the contrary, confidentiality is disclosed when it reveals risk of harm to the participants.
Thirdly, the professional code of ethics adopted from the National Association of Social Workers and Philippines Association of Social Workers, Inc. serve as a guide in the professional practice as social worker and researcher. Furthermore, professional code of ethics help us to avoid pitfalls not only in our practice but in research, ratified us to ensure not to forget the other contributors in research. Those contributors are sponsors, other researchers, colleagues, participants and the society and we make sure that our professional integrity is uphold such as in giving honest report and interpret findings and acknowledge the work of others. Knowledge, Power and Ethics in social work research are all interdependent. They serve as the body of knowledge and very vital in conducting research. Conducting research in social work is truly empowering people and communities rather than self – serving because we advocate to the best interest and welfare of the research participants and to the research contributors. We, social work researchers are an enabler to the participants and in the society because we collectively engage people in the community to participate.
Although, we may experience ethical dilemmas during the study, but when knowledge, power, research and professional code of ethics are established, it will still help us to do the right thing that would not harm the participants, sponsors, other researchers, colleagues, and the society. Moreover, we must always remember that our ultimate goal and practice is to make sure the best interest and welfare of our research participants and society. References Gaventa, J., Cornwall, A (2001). Power and Knowledge. In P. Reason H.
Bradbury (Eds). Yegidis, Bonnie and Weinbach, Robert. Research Methods for Social Work.
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