Ethical guidelines

In following ethical guidelines we draw from the ethical guidelines produced by the Association of Social Anthropologists (ASA, 2011) as our guide when conducting fieldwork in companies.

Relations with and responsibilities towards research participants

No special risks are anticipated for research participants as a result of the research. Research will be carried out in at the workplace primarily, but may also take place at other public places. Informed consent will be granted from all participants, and of course maintained throughout fieldwork. Sustained participant observation and interviews within these spaces may elicit somewhat delicate information. However, our questions will not be of sensitive nature likely to cause psychological disturbance. We will reveal our identity and aims, and the purpose and context of the research will be made clear.

Fieldwork researchers should try to minimise disturbances both to subjects themselves and to the subjects' relationships with their working environment.

Fieldwork researchers should be aware of the intrusive potential of some of their enquiries and methods.

Research participants will not be obliged in any way to participate and can withdraw at any time.

Negotiating informed consent: Fieldwork research in companies should be based on the freely given informed consent of subjects. The principle of informed consent expresses the belief in the need for truthful and respectful exchanges between social researchers and the people with whom they study. 

Negotiating consent entails communicating information likely to be material to a person's willingness to participate, such as: the purpose(s) of the study and the anticipated consequences of the research; the identity of funders and sponsors; the anticipated uses of the data; possible benefits of the study and harm or discomfort that might affect participants; issues relating to data storage and security; and including limits to the degree of anonymity and confidentiality which may be afforded to informants and subjects.

We conceive of consent in research as a process that requires renegotiation over time. 

In addition to needing to negotiate consent to the field through "gatekeepers" (usually the head of the company and the project leads), we will aim to supplement the informed consent of collective bodies with that of individual employees, who will ultimately be the primary subjects of the research.

Given the flexibility and open-ended nature of ethnographic research, ethical decision-making has to be undertaken repeatedly throughout the research and in response to specific circumstances. 

In studies in large corporations, where not everyone would have been formally informed of our presence and objectives in the company, the ethnographers should take all practicable steps to be introduced by local participants and identify him/herself as a researcher.

Photography (both stills and film) is a very important tool of anthropological inquiry. Filming should always be overt. Moreover, in the case of large public events it is likely that not everyone photographed/filmed will have the chance to give verbal consent. In such cases the researchers should do all that is possible in his/her powers to not compromise people's identities or security in public presentations of the material.

Research participants should have the right to remain anonymous and to have their rights to privacy and confidentiality respected.

During fieldwork, data records will be handled confidentially and kept locked at all times in at our headquarters. With regards to anonymity, pseudonyms could be used when referring to participants wished to safeguard their anonymity during the entirety or a portion of the project. Our research may deal with personal experience it is essential to state that all accounts will be treated in the strictest confidence and the anonymity of informants closely observed. 

Relations with and responsibilities towards clients

Fieldwork should be careful to clarify, preferably in advance of signing contracts or starting their research, matters relating to their professional domain and to their control over the research project and its products.