Ethics, research and policy

Malcolm Cowburn

in Policy reconsidered

Published by Policy Press

Published in print November 2007 | ISBN: 9781861349132
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781447302995 | DOI:
Ethics, research and policy

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This chapter emphasises the centrality of ethics in policy practices and policy research. It discusses the relationship between what have become dominant forms of knowledge and the policy this knowledge informs. It suggests that in the conception and process of policy research, ethical issues mould the project, influence the findings, and shape the subsequent policies. This highlights the inextricable links between ethics and epistemology. Arguing that ethics and policy often concentrate on the implications of particular courses of action and shun the ethical implications of a particular epistemological standpoint, this chapter focuses on research relating to the sexual offending of men. This case highlights the problems involved in conceptualising and conducting research that seeks to inform policy aimed at protecting the public including the ethical questions on the focus of research. The chapter begins by outlining the main approaches to thinking ethically in relation to developing research and policy. It considers the socially constructed nature of knowledge and develops the notion of hegemonic discourse. The chapter also develops the case study used in this chapter to highlight the arguments presented. Probing and understanding sexual violence leads to the exploration of the interrelated nature of epistemology, power, and ethics. The chapter ends with a consideration of the wider issues for the development of ethical research that seeks to inform policy.

Keywords: policy practices; policy research; epistemology; ethics; sexual offending; hegemonic discourse; ethical research

Chapter.  6403 words. 

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