As a researcher I am concerned about the integrity of the research I engage in. This relates not least to which categories can or should be employed in research; spanning issues of sampling in different forms of data collection, analysis of data, and all phases of research communication. Which questions are asked, and which are not, and do we have good answers as to why?
These are questions about the ethics of migration research. They include considerations related directly to research participants, of course, such as (but not limited to) informed consent. But they also include reflection on knowledge production, co-authorship, and open access. Fundamentally, these issues connect, because they are about research integrity – about enabling and ensuring the robustness and trustworthiness of research.
Questioning categories is simple, moving beyond abstract deconstruction to provide something of analytical use, is harder. With Ceri Oeppen, we strive to achieve this, in our article Forced to leave? The discursive and analytical significance of describing migration as forced and voluntary. You can also watch a video where Ceri and I discuss how and why we chose to write this particular article, drawing on our research with people from Afghanistan and Pakistan.
My approach to research collaboration is closely tied to my understanding of the co-production of knowledge. I write about this in a Policy Brief with Cindy Horst, reflecting on how research can contribute to address pressing societal challenges, whilst remaining both independent and trustworthy, living up to the highest scientific standards of validity: Co-Creating Knowledge: Creative collaborations between researchers, artists, policymakers and practitioners.
Often unique opportunities arise from working with researchers from other disciplines, institutions, and countries, not least working across the Global North/South divide. There are opportunities and challenges, and an inherent institutional wealth asymmetry to grapple with, dilemmas I elaborate on in a PRIO blog post, together with co-authors Anum Amjad, Qamar Zaman Bodla and Asma Rubab: Equality in North-South Research Collaboration.
Ongoing debates on ‘decolonizing the academy’ are essentially about power, and more specifically power hierarchies. So, we are discussing unevenly distributed power when it comes to defining knowledge, which inevitably leads to skewed knowledge, to incomplete knowledge. In the context of migration studies, this also intersects with academic everyday practice, for instance in relation to considering: What Shapes Which Migration Flows We Study?
Open Access to Research is important, yet it is challenged by the fact that a large proportion of research articles are not accessible to all, but published behind paywalls. With colleagues at PRIO and UiO we assessed the possible consequences of Plan S for publishing, research quality and research environments introduced in 2018, offering a set of recommendations aimed at ensuring open access to research findings, but simultaneously maintaining the integrity and societal value of research.
Training, mentoring, and peer-mentoring are tasks essential to ensuring robustness and trustworthiness of research in the long term. As Chair of the IMISCOE network’s Training Committee I’ve been involved in organising ‘speed-feedback-sessions’ at the annual IMISCOE conference, including both senior academics and PhD student peers participating together.
Participating in peer review processes, especially in double-blind peer review for international academic journals, is something I spend a substantial amount of time on, and value highly. The contribution we make as researchers to peer review really enhances research quality, in my experience, both as a reviewer and as an author. Participating in peer review is also integral to experiences of being part of an academic community. Of course, peer review can also be a terrible process, as an author, especially if reviewers don’t live up to basic standards of peer review or if Editors abdicate from a strong Editorial role. Despite occasional bad experiences, and perhaps also because of such, there’s every reason to aspire to be an excellent peer reviewer.